Someone You Should Know: Forensic pathologist passionate about teaching next generation

Published: Jul. 12, 2023 at 4:41 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Dr. Kenneth Snell is a licensed physician and a forensic pathologist at Sanford.

“We work behind the scenes,” said Dr. Snell. “A lot of people have heard of us but don’t know what we do. People have a death, and they don’t know what’s the next step — they don’t know what to do.”

As a coroner of Minnehaha County, he works directly with law enforcement.

“What I do is the teaching and training and working with them to solve cases — work integrally with the FBI and help them to do their job,” said Dr. Snell.

There are only two forensic pathologists in South Dakota, and he completes about 300 autopsies a year.

“We don’t give closure; we give an understanding of what happened,” said Dr. Snell. “We can help you understand the process, understand what happened. Closure comes with time.”

Dr. Snell hopes to encourage the next generation to learn about his field.

“He’s been really fantastic to work with,” said Aaron Amundson, pathology resident at Sanford. “No matter what forensic case we are working that day, he always has something he could add and really teach you about.”

He enjoys teaching both medical professionals and high school students.

“Part of the opportunities that we have being here at Sanford USD Medical Center is that we have students, and we are allowed to teach those students every aspect of what we do,” said Dr. Snell.

“We’re not teaching just at the medical level,” said Dr. Snell. “We’re getting into the high schools. For continuing education, we’re also teaching the nurses, paramedics and law enforcement.”

Last year, he won a community service award from the FBI for educating law enforcement and communities throughout South Dakota.

“Any time that we have police officers in the morgue, observing the autopsies, seeing him, working with him, and having him teach those police officers — show them, ‘Okay, this is what we’re seeing. This is what this means,’” said Amundson.

“To be recognized from out of the background for that is nice,” said Dr. Snell. “The important thing for me is recognizing what we as a group do — me, my staff and this hospital — all that we do for the community.”