The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences maintains the following accreditations:
National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME)
American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board-International (ASCLD/LAB-International)
American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT)
Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)
Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
Texas Medical Association for the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (TMA-CME)
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences (HCIFS) is accredited by six scientific accrediting organizations. Accreditations are essential to the integrity of a forensic science organization such as HCIFS and validate our commitment to fair and unbiased analyses and court testimony, use of best practices, fundamentally sound research, and proper training of professionals. Each of these respected organizations, comprised of distinguished experts and scholars in their fields, has inspected and granted accreditation after completing a rigorous and comprehensive inspection and then closely monitors HCIFS performance for ongoing compliance during the period of accreditation. The accreditations thus acknowledge the merit of our staff and the work they produce. The six accrediting organizations are:
· National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME). The HCIFS successfully obtained reaccreditation by this organization in December 2011 and has maintained continuous NAME accreditation since June 2006. Notably, HCIFS is one of only 60 medical examiner offices in the nation with full NAME accreditation. NAME is the only organization that provides accreditation specifically for medical examiners.
· American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board-International ISO/IEC 17025-PLUS (ASCLD/LAB-International). All crime laboratory disciplines within the HCIFS including Toxicology, Drug Chemistry, Genetics and Trace Evidence hold this accreditation. HCIFS achieved accreditation under the stringent international standards of ASCLD/LAB (the “ISO 17025” standards) in December 2008. The HCIFS Crime Laboratory has been continuously accredited by ASCLD/LAB since 1998.
· Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). The DPS accreditation is essential for our crime laboratory analysts to present evidence in courts of law within the state of Texas.
· American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT). HCIFS has maintained ABFT accreditation in postmortem forensic toxicology since 2004. This accreditation focuses on the importance of postmortem sample testing that not only can determine if an individual was impaired (as in DUI) or poisoned but can also assist with the determination of cause (or contributory cause) and manner of death.
· Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). ACGME accreditation certifies an agency as a training institute in a medical subspecialty. Our accreditation by ACGME allows the HCIFS Forensic Pathology Fellowship Program to train two physicians per year in this pathology subspecialty. The year of training that a Fellow completes at HCIFS qualifies the trainee for the American Board of Pathology subspecialty examination in Forensic Pathology. Accreditation specifically addresses the academic abilities and resources that this institution maintains. HCIFS holds this accreditation independently, apart from the various neighbor institutions within the Texas Medical Center (TMC). Nevertheless, the academic environment within TMC is indispensable for maintaining this type of educational accreditation. Reciprocally, the HCIFS serves as a valuable training institution for doctors-in-training in other ACGME-accredited pathology programs within TMC.
· Texas Medical Association for the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (TMA-CME). This accreditation allows the HCIFS to sponsor educational conferences and seminars that qualify for continuing medical education credits required by the Texas Medical Board for physicians to maintain licensure. The HCIFS is currently the only medical examiner office in Texas to hold this accreditation. TMA-CME accreditation is instrumental in HCIFS’ role as an educational Institute within the medical community, and it allows our own physicians to obtain continuing medical education in-house – in relevant, timely, subspecialty-specific conferences.
Accreditation assures the public that the Institute of Forensic Sciences meets the highest professional standards in the country and ensures credibility within the scientific community and the legal system. Accreditation by such respected organizations reflects HCIFS’s demonstrable fulfillment of essential and comprehensive standards addressing resources, discipline-specific tasks, quality assurance procedures, and facility requirements.