Thursday, 5 February 2015

Dr Jennifer Pilgrim's Travel Grant Report

Dr Jennifer Pilgrim recently attended and presented at The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists annual meeting. In her own words, read about her experience:

Buenos Aires, Argentina, was the setting for the annual meeting of The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT). The meeting involved over 400 delegates from all over the world and a comprehensive scientific program involving a wide variety of forensic and analytical toxicology. The program included four days of platform and poster presentations, in addition to an afternoon devoted specifically to young toxicologists where we had the opportunity to mingle with researchers and colleagues from around the world.

During the meeting, I presented my research examining the involvement of alcohol and other drugs in fatal single-punch assaults. This research is significant in an international context as alcohol-related violence is a problem throughout the world. Our study identified almost 100 cases of fatal single punches, or “king hits”, of which most involved young men under the influence of alcohol. The majority of deaths occurred at hotels or pubs, late on a Friday or Saturday night. Although the expectation was that many cases would involve the use of drugs other than alcohol, toxicological analysis indicated that single-punch fatalities generally involved the use of alcohol alone. Other drugs were only detected in 10 cases of the cohort.

After discussing these findings with our international colleagues, it was clear that single-punch assaults are not uncommon in other parts of the world, they often occur at sporting events, and they almost always involve alcohol. Researchers from the USA and Ireland revealed that “king hits” are also an issue in their countries.

The opportunity to travel to Buenos Aires for the TIAFT conference helped me consolidate older networks including my ongoing collaboration with colleagues at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden, which was formed at a past TIAFT meeting. It enabled me to learn about current research and new scientific techniques that are being utilised throughout the world in our field, allowing me to bring this knowledge back to Australia and incorporate it into our research in the DFM.

My attendance also allowed me to share my research with national and international colleagues, increasing my professional research profile and representing Monash University as one of the preeminent research organisations in the southern hemisphere.

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