There is a part of UMD that is largely unknown to the students on campus, and that is the St. Louis County Coroner's office. Since 1998, St. Louis County has rented out space in the UMD Medical School, where students can perform and investigate autopsies. St. Louis County rents out this space because UMD’s medical school provides easy access to all the fundamental equipment needed by the coroner, according to Dr. Alan Johns, Dean of the Medical School.
Few students know that this is occurring on campus. Lori Melton, communications associate for UMD’s Office of External Affairs, agrees that many students may be surprised to find out the coroner’s office is here on campus.
“It’s definitely not something that we broadcast,” Dr. Johns said.
Staff and faculty in the medical school try to respect coroner Kolleen Kennedy’s privacy, which is why so few people know about the coroner’s office location.
One reason the office is more or less a secret is because the medical school on the Duluth campus isn’t associated with UMD; it is actually through the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Professional School.
Although the office was recently a mystery to the rest of the campus, Dr. Johns said, “It is certainly no secret to the students and staff in the med school.”
Medical students are able to volunteer in assisting the coroner or can just observe the process.
The dean couldn’t provide any exact numbers on how often the office is actually used to perform autopsies, though he’s sure that “there isn’t even one a week.”
The coroner’s office was part of a controversy in recent weeks regarding one of its patients — Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe spiritual leader. The leader was killed in a car accident and his body was sent to the medical examiner. Members of the tribe successfully managed to get his body released because autopsies violate their burial rights.
The St.Louis County Coroner’s office is here on a two-year lease. Right now they are a half a year into their newest lease and there is no sign of them leaving their space any time soon.
By Hannah Broadbent and Laura Gruhlke