Lauren Bluhm

2019 recipient of the Audrey J. Harris Summer Internship Award


Interned with the Dane County Medical Examiner

This is my third and final year as an undergraduate at UW-Madison. I’m majoring in biology with a certificate in criminal justice, with the hope of one day going to medical school to become a forensic pathologist. During my time at Madison, I have had numerous opportunities, including researching with the Grinblat lab, volunteering at UW-Health, and participating in pre-health organizations. However, no experience has been as valuable as my summer internship with the Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Because of my fascination with pathology and the criminal justice field, I cannot think of a better suited internship for me. The Medical Examiner’s purpose is to investigate deaths, a goal reached by both medicolegal investigation and autopsy. My summer consisted of time spent with the investigators, when I worked three 12 hour shifts each week and learned quite a lot about every aspect of the job. From taking cremation photos to accompanying investigators on scenes, I was immersed in each intricate step of death investigation. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the job occurs when notifying family members of a death; I believe the proper balance between empathy and information gathering can only come with practice. Even looking through past case files kept me entertained on slow days, as each case has something unique about it. After most of the summer spent learning about death investigation, I feel as though I learned a huge amount of information but still have so much more to uncover.

While working with the Medicolegal Investigators was fascinating, I found myself looking forward to the four weeks of autopsy rotation. Because of my interest in the medical field, I couldn’t wait to study anatomy and pathology during autopsies. Working alongside the forensic pathologists was such a privilege, and I could not be more grateful for the time they spent talking me through the steps of an autopsy, teaching me about anatomy and various pathological concepts, and answering all my questions. Despite experiencing a wide range of autopsies- from overdoses to decomposing bodies to gunshot wounds- I found myself continuously eager to witness an interesting case. I know that I am only scratching the surface of medical knowledge, but I truly enjoy learning about every new concept. I can definitely see myself pursuing a career in pathology, a realization made possible by this internship.

Receiving the Audrey J. Harris award was an incredible honor, and I will always be grateful to her family members and Legal Studies staff who made this possible. This award allowed me to pursue my dream internship without constantly worrying about the financial implications. Again, I cannot express my gratitude enough for the award that impacted my summer internship so profoundly.