Dr. Heather Edgar and the New Mexico Decedent Image Database (NMDID) featured in Science Node

Departmental News

Posted:  Feb 06, 2020 - 12:00pm

The work of Dr. Heather Edgar, Forensic Anthropologist at the University of New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI), establishing a database for deceased people has been featured in Science Node.  The article, What the Dead Can Tell Us, explains the importance of the dataset of whole body decedent CT scans, which Dr. Edgar converted into a searchable database.The New Mexico Decedent Image Database (NMDID) website will offer qualified researchers free access to more than 15,000 full-body CT scans, along with corresponding information about the deceased. Funded by a $702,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice, the database is stored on systems at the UNM Center for Advanced Research Computing (CARC).

The UNM OMI is only one of two centralized, statewide offices for medico-legal investigation. About 35 percent of deaths in New Mexico are processed through the OMI. It is also the only medical examiner’s office in the US that routinely makes CT scans of nearly every individual whose death is investigated. Between 2010 and 2017, the OMI created over 15,000 whole body CT scans, a research resource that is unmatched anywhere. Each scan contains 10,000-12,000 images. That many high-resolution scans for each body has generated massive amounts of data, requiring a large system that CARC offers to store it. Privacy and anonymity are preserved. Edgar’s team included CARC specialists that ensured scans and personal information will not be identifiable by name and that unauthorized users won’t be able to access the database.

To read the full article in Science Node, click here