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The Pathology Group, P.C. | Forensic Pathology Services in Grand Junction, CO

Forensic Pathology

The Pathology Group (TPG) provides complete Forensic Pathology services which includes the performance of autopsies, medicolegal investigation, medical record review, injury examination on both deceased and living subjects, histology, laboratory investigation and toxicology services. Dean Havlik, MD is board certified in forensic pathology and completed his forensic pathology fellowship at the well respected Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque, NM, which is considered one of the top forensics programs. There are only approximately 500 actively practicing board certified forensic pathologists in the United States. In addition to his forensic pathology training, Dr. Havlik also completed a neuropathology fellowship which provided expertise in brain pathology including brain injury interpretation and natural disease processes such as dementia evaluation.

TPG is a nationally accredited forensic office through the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME). Accreditation ensures offices are complying to all the necessary forensic standards and there are only approximately 90 fully accredited offices. Accreditation is an important component for forensic offices and is an aspect that should be considered when coroner’s offices, attorney’s offices, law enforcement agencies and families are deciding on who will do their forensic work.

There are several county Coroner’s Offices that rely on Dr. Havlik and TPG to provide their forensic services, most notably many of those in Western Colorado. TPG also has an excellent professional rapport with attorney’s offices and law enforcement agencies. Dr. Havlik prides himself on being readily available to families and other loved ones of the deceased to discuss the results of autopsies or to consult on other forensic-related matters. Be it a medical-related event or injuries that resulted in the death, Dr. Havlik has the expertise to provide answers based on the autopsy and death investigation findings.

Death investigation is not the only area that a forensic pathologist can provide their expert services. Injury and injury pattern interpretation on living individuals is also a common service that Dr. Havlik provides. Forensic pathologists are considered experts in injuries and how they affect the human body and Dr. Havlik has experience testifying in court in this area.

Trusted Partner in Mesa County

Dr. Havlik has vast experience with the Coroner system in Colorado. He was the elected Coroner for Mesa County for 12 years before he was term limited in 2018. Besides Mesa County, he has worked closely with other county Coroner offices. He currently provides the forensic/autopsy services for several counties in Western Colorado.

Fees and Insurance

Insurance companies do not pay for autopsy/forensic services. TPG and Dr. Havlik are paid on a fee for service basis from those they serve such as from the Coroner’s Offices, attorney’s offices or families.

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Forensic Pathology Frequently Asked Questions

What is a forensic pathologist?

A forensic pathologist is a medical doctor that has earned an MD degree from medical school and has completed both a general pathology residency (4-5 years) and a forensic pathology fellowship (1 year). A board certified forensic pathologist is one  that has successfully passed both a general pathology board examination and a forensic pathology board examination. These examinations can only be taken after the completion of the necessary training. The approved organization that certifies pathologists is the American Board of Pathology.

What is a Coroner?

A Coroner is typically an elected government position. The US has a mixed death investigation system with some states being “Coroner” states, some being “medical examiner” states and others being a mixture of these two. Most would agree the optimal system is a medical examiner system like what occurs in states such as New Mexico and Utah. Colorado is a “coroner” state and each county in Colorado elects their own Coroner. In essence, each county has their own medicolegal death investigation system and it is not necessarily uniform in each county. There are only a handful of counties in Colorado that have a Coroner who is a board certified forensic pathologist. Any Colorado citizen over the age of 18, that is registered to vote and not a felon can run for for the office of the Coroner. A Coroner does not have to be a physician in Colorado. This makes for a large range of individuals who are Colorado Coroners.

What is a Medical Examiner?

A Medical Examiner is by definition a medical doctor. Medical Examiner is often an appointed position as opposed to an elected position and they perform duties such as autopsy examination, scene investigation and medical record review. In contrast to a Coroner, a Medical Examiner is expected to bring a medical level of expertise to the job. Forensic pathologists are often referred to as Medical Examiners in those “medical examiner” states such as in New Mexico.

Who pays for an autopsy?

If a person dies suddenly or unexpectedly without a significant medical history or in a suspected violent means the death investigation will most likely fall under the Coroner or Medical Examiner jurisdiction and the autopsy examination will be paid for by tax dollars. In Colorado, each county Coroner’s Office will decide if an autopsy needs to be performed and if so, the county has a budget to pay for these autopsies. If a family wishes to have an autopsy performed that does not fall under the Coroner or Medical Examiners jurisdiction or the office “releases” the case without an autopsy, they can contract with a pathologist to perform a “private” autopsy. The Pathology Group can help with private autopsies and they do perform these types of autopsy examinations.

What is neuropathology?

Neuropathology is  the study of the brain and spinal cord and how diseases affect these organs. Having a pathologist with experience and special training in neuropathology can become important in certain cases, especially those forensic cases that involve injuries to the brain or in those individuals that have potential brain tumors or symptoms of dementia. Dr. Havlik with TPG underwent specialized neuropathology training and is experienced with cases involving brain abnormalities.

How long does in take to get an autopsy report?

Each office has different policies or has different typical turnaround times for autopsy reports. There are some offices that will take several weeks to several months to complete their reports. Dr. Havlik prides himself on having a fast turnaround time and the majority of reports are completed within 3-4 weeks after the autopsy procedure and often times faster than that.


Dr. Havlik Forensic Pathologist Grand Junction CO

Dean Havlik, MD

Dr. Havlik is board certified in anatomic pathology, clinical pathology and forensic pathology. He is the laboratory director at Community Hospital in Grand Junction, CO where he has been practicing pathology since 2001. Dr. Havlik went to undergraduate school at Arizona State University, medical school at Medical College of Pennsylvania and completed his pathology training at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. He completed a 1 year neuropathology fellowship after his general pathology training and then completed a forensic pathology fellowship at the Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque, NM. Dr. Havlik’s special interests relate to both hospital and forensic pathology.

Click here to read publications written by Dr. Havlik.

Phillips, Katherine Grand Junction CO

Katherine Phillips, MD

Dr. Phillips is board certified in anatomic pathology, clinical pathology and cytopathology. She came to our group in 2016, brings her expertise in cytopathology and is the laboratory director at the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Dr. Phillips went to undergraduate school at Florida State University, medical school at University of Florida College of Medicine and completed both her general pathology training and cytopathology fellowship at the University of Florida College of Medicine. Dr. Phillip’s special interests are surgical pathology and cytopathology.

Dr. Hegstrom Grand Junction CO

John Hegstrom, MD

Dr. Hegstrom brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our practice. He has been with our group since 2015. He previously had practiced pathology for many years in Colorado Springs. Dr. Hegstrom is board certified in anatomic pathology and clinical pathology and currently works with our group on a part-time basis. He has special interests in breast pathology and renal pathology.

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Account Professionals

Kathy Stern, Joni Myers and Raelynn Tempel: Our three account professionals have all been with our group for a number of years. Joni has been a trusted employee since 2008 and has specialties in coding, billing and accounts receivable. Kathy came to us in 2009 and specializes in insurance billing and accounts receivable. Coding and billing are Raelynn’s specialties and we were honored to have her join us in 2015. Our account professionals are responsive and available to help with any questions that may arise.

Histology Grand Junction CO

Histology Staff

Tara Jochim, HTL; Ginger Sprague, HT; Kate Bowman

Our histology staff are top-notch. The histologists are the professionals who are responsible for processing the tissue specimens and ensuring quality slide preparations are generated for the pathologists to review. Good histology is of the upmost importance and having an outstanding histology staff can’t be overemphasized.

Lab in Grand Junction CO

Laboratory Staff

Several laboratory professionals at Community Hospital provide services to The Pathology Group in all the fields of laboratory medicine including microbiology, general chemistry, specialty chemistry, molecular, serology and transfusion medicine. The team at Community Hospital provides a valuable service to The Pathology Group.

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Forensic Staff

Forensic pathology services are provided by key members of our team. Dean Havlik, MD is a board certified forensic pathologist who completed his forensics training at one of the most prestigious training programs in the nation (Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque, NM). Dr. Havlik is well trained in experienced in all aspects of forensic pathology. Three autopsy pathology assistants are invaluable to the practice and they are Chuck Nelson and Ginger Sprague. These assistants are responsible for making the autopsy process run smoothly and efficiently.

Chuck Nelson

Chuck has been with our office for several years. He has a background and emergency medical services and has been certified as an investigator with the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators. He has the knowledge and skills to perform expert death scene investigations and has been involved with hundreds of these types of investigations. He is also a seasoned autopsy assistant and has experience in all the usual autopsy assistant procedures. Chuck’s communications skills with the families and loved ones of the decedent’s we interact with are one of his many strong points. Chuck is very professional, kind, compassionate, works hard and is a very valuable staff member.

Tara Jochim, HTL

Histotechnology is Tara’s specialty. She has been working with our group for over 15 years and has been our lead histotechnologist for over 13 years. Our histotechnology department operates at a high level and our laboratory is certified through the College of American Pathologists (CAP) which is the premier accrediting organization for pathology laboratories. Tara ensures our lab follows all the necessary standards and procedures in regard to quality and safety. In addition, Tara’s specialty is immunohistochemistry which involves a staining procedure involving targeting proteins expressed on tumor cells and normal cells and having them highlighted on glass slides. Tara brings skills to our organization that are very important and they cannot be overemphasized. Pathologists rely heavily on professionals such as Tara.

Kate Bowman, BS

The newest member of our pathology team is Kate. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and this is her first professional job out of graduation. Kate is currently learning the skills to become a proficient Histotechnologist. There is a lot of training involved with this profession and Kate is learning quickly. We are happy to have Kate as a member of our team and she is a valuable addition.

Ginger Sprague, HT

Ginger started with our organization many years ago as a laboratory assistant primarily performing phlebotomy. She has worked herself up the ladder and now is one of our outstanding histotechnologists. Ginger has the skills of a seasoned histotechnologist and can perform essentially any task in our pathology laboratory. She excels at tissue processing and immunohistochemistry. Ginger is also one of our lead autopsy assistants. She has the ability to perform all the usual autopsy assistant procedures. Ginger is also always willing to further her education and skills and is currently studying medicolegal death investigation procedures.