WFUBMC Pathology Residents and Fellows Collaborate with WFU Law Students in Advanced Trial Practice and Litigation Clinic

Dr. Donald R. Jason is a forensic pathologist who has taught anatomic pathology at WFUBMC since 1992.  He also has a law degree from St. John’s University.  Dr. Jason directs the Forensic Pathology Fellowship Program at the Wake Forest University medical school.  Many of his students become medical examiners, which means they will almost inevitably be called to testify at trial.  Dr. Jason wanted to forge a relationship with the law school so his students could practice giving expert testimony.  He contacted Professor Carol Anderson, director of the Trial Practice and Litigation Clinic, and a natural collaboration was born.

The law school’s Litigation Clinic and Advanced Trial Practice students work with several of Dr. Jason’s medical students who testify in mock depositions and trials that require expert medical testimony.  Dr. Charles Rawlings, a former neurosurgeon and Wake Law graduate (’02), also serves as both expert witness and instructor for a few of these classes.

During the Fall 2009 semester, Dr. Jason supplied eight of his residents and fellows as deponents and expert witnesses in a medical malpractice case for the Advanced Trial Practice class, which was team-taught by Professor Anderson and new adjunct Professors Tom Comerford (‘74) and Cliff Britt (‘86).

As Professor Anderson noted, “These doctors spent hours being deposed by our students.  They also served as expert witnesses in our mock trials.  Our students were absolutely ecstatic about the opportunity to examine real physicians, and the physicians themselves learned a lot about how to be effective expert witnesses.  I think all of us reaped huge benefits from these exercises.”

Both medical and law students were enthusiastic about the opportunity to collaborate and learn from one another.  Professor Anderson’s students remarked that examining a real medical expert was entirely different than examining a fellow law student who is only pretending to be a doctor.  The doctors may not have exactly enjoyed being cross-examined, but they were grateful for the opportunity to practice testifying in a safe and supportive environment.

Immediately after being cross-examined in one of the trials, Dr. Jennifer Wagstaff asked the class, “Do you guys really do this sort of thing for fun?”

“Yes, we do.  And by semester’s end the medical students and law students had not only learned much about each other’s professions, they had become friends and colleagues – and all of us had fun in the process,” replied Anderson.

Dr. Jason now uses this valuable cross-disciplinary training as a drawing card for prospective residents and fellows by promising them the opportunity to hone their expert examination skills in partnership with the law school, Anderson said.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dr. Donald Jason and his students for generously sharing their time, talents, and knowledge with Wake Forest law students,” she added.  “We look forward to many years of mutually beneficial collaborative skills training.”