Interview with Dr. Joseph Prahlow Immanuel class of ’78

Immanuel was a huge part of my life growing-up. As one of “Mr. Augie Prahlow’s” kids, our family was very involved in all sorts of activities at Immanuel. Some of my favorite memories are of the Christmas Eve program at VU’s chapel. Being a “teacher’s kid” wasn’t always easy, because the other kids would suggest that I was getting special treatment, when most of the time, the teachers seemed to go out of their way to *not* grant me any favors. I actually learned to appreciate that, and have found throughout my life that I try to avoid playing favorites. In forensic pathology, it is very important to guard against bias, so this has really helped me in my career.

After graduating from college and beginning my medical school education, I eventually recognized that I really enjoyed problem-solving, which led me into the specialty area of pathology. A pathologist spends most of their time assisting with the diagnosis of disease, via laboratory tests and things like biopsies, answering very important questions like, “Is it cancer?” During my residency I also was exposed to the specialty known as “forensic pathology,” and I finished my formal education by doing a fellowship in forensic pathology in Dallas, TX. Forensic pathologists perform medicolegal autopsies in order to determine the cause and manner of death. It’s an extremely interesting field, with no two days alike. We are sometimes referred to as “physicians of the dead,” but in reality, the job we do is very important to answer questions for surviving family members, physicians, and law enforcement personnel. As part of my job, I testify in court (mostly murder trials). I am also very involved in academics, as I am a professor of pathology at a medical school, so I teach, perform and present research, and publish papers in medical and forensic journals. I have been on various television shows, such as HBO’s “Autopsy” series and a show on the Discovery Channel where Dr. G highlights interesting forensic cases from around the country. I have had the opportunity to speak all over the United States, as well as Canada, England, Germany, Turkey, and Hong Kong. My job is very interesting, and relatively unique.

Dealing with death on a daily basis can be a bit of a “downer,” but it keeps me ever mindful of the fact that our lives on earth are only temporary. As Christians, we can rest in the knowledge that after our earthly deaths, we will spend eternity with our Heavenly Father, through the gracious sacrifice of his Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

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