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Most students discover a potential career interest from a new class, volunteering, or an extracurricular club or sport. For Ismae Bailey ’21, it was a field trip to an industry conference during her sophomore year in high school. For a criminal justice class, she attended the International Association of Coroners & Medical Examiners annual event and discovered the field of forensic pathology. “I fell in love with it. The study of death investigation amazes me.”
Since then, Bailey – a senior with a double major in Forensic Science and Biology – has worked diligently to achieve her dream of becoming a forensic pathologist. Between a full schedule of academics, student government, and community service work, Ismae returns home to Las Vegas every summer and winter break to shadow the Coroner at the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office. “I volunteer to do ride-a-longs and sit-in on autopsies. I love to be in that atmosphere.” Impressed with her medical knowledge and drive, the Coroner has plans to hire her next summer after she graduates and becomes a certified medical death investigator.
With expanded lab space in the new Learning Commons building, Ismae has already started to experience a crossover of knowledge and skill from classroom to her field work in the Coroner’s office from fingerprinting to processing a crime scene. “I love that the forensic labs are hands-on, and I’ve also learned a lot from my criminal justice courses. I now better understand how police officers are trained with crime scene investigation.”
Outside the lab, Ismae is a recognized leader both on and off campus. She has been awarded the Marine Corps Scholarship three years in a row, and in 2019 received the first John McDermott Honorary Scholarship. She also serves as Vice President of Curry Cares and is an influential mentor for students in the First-Year Living Learning Communities (LLC) program and among other minority students at Curry. “I enjoy being a leader because I want to show my peers that if I can do it, they can do it too, regardless of what struggles we may face.”
Moreover, it’s her development as a leader on campus to which she attributes her success at the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office. “At Curry, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and am now able to lead my peers, speak up, and ask questions. Without this personal growth, I wouldn’t be as successful as I am in the field where I have to work side-by-side with other investigators.”
More than anything, Ismae is excited to advance in her forensics and biology coursework and has plans to potentially shadow a crime scene investigator with a Boston-area police department this year. Yet, what drives her passion for the field of death investigation the most is working in a field that helps by providing answers to an often-grieving community. “By becoming a forensic pathologist, I will be able to determine the cause and manner of death and bring answers to family members and my community.”