Naval Health Research Center Recognized for Science Behind SDPD Court Testimony

Story Number: NNS140319-15Release Date: 3/19/2014 3:09:00 PM
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By Anna Hancock, Naval Health Research Center Public Affairs Officer

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The City of San Diego Police Department recognized three Naval Health Research Center phlebotomists for their volunteer service during a command awards ceremony at NHRC headquarters, March 13, in San Diego.

The SDPD's Crime Laboratory Forensic Chemistry Unit acknowledged Kathrine Service, Leila El-Kara, and Anet Petrosyan, phlebotomists with NHRC's Warfighter Performance Department, with individual letters of appreciation endorsed by NHRC's commanding officer. Service, El-Kara, and Petrosyan assisted SDPD in implementing a correlation study that is instrumental in training forensic criminalists as expert blood alcohol analysts.

"Our chemists are required to become experts in blood alcohol analysis and to testify in court. Much of their expertise is gained through reading scientific literature," explained Jennifer Shen, SDPD's Crime Laboratory manager. "In addition to literature review, it is important for an analyst to observe the intoxicating and impairing effects of alcohol at varying doses in order to correlate a particular blood alcohol concentration with objective symptoms as well as task performance."

Correlation studies offer a hands-on experience for analysts to familiarize themselves with the relationship of alcohol to impairment in a controlled environment. Of all the elements in the training curriculum, the correlation study is one of the largest and most beneficial pieces, according to Shen.

Late last year, Service, El-Kara, and Petrosyan were called upon to draw blood at various times in this study while on personal time. The blood was analyzed and the study outcomes provide the scientific foundation and the data to validate the expertise SDPD blood alcohol analysts provide in court.

"The support from NHRC made our study better, and most importantly, helped us put together a complete product that answers relevant questions to corroborate our testimony in court," explained Shen. "This data backs up our expert opinions."

The letters of appreciation further lauded Service, El-Kara, and Petrosyan's efforts by mentioning how the team's volunteer work contributed valuable information toward sample collection strategies.

"Having the phlebotomist skill set is one of the tools I have and utilize as a research assistant," noted Service. Service has been with NHRC for nearly three years. She, El-Kara, and Petrosyan often work with various research teams within NHRC who are conducting research efforts in need of phlebotomy support.

"Overall, I really enjoyed my experience and I would like to volunteer more often, especially when it can be connected with our mission here at NHRC," said Service. "It's important to collaborate, not only within our own organization, but with outside organizations [such as SDPD] in order to make connections and see what other types of research investigators are conducting. Most importantly, it aligns with our organizational strategic priorities of value, visibility, and collaboration."

On the support to SDPD, Shen expressed her appreciation to the team.

"We were grateful to have [NHRC's] phlebotomists to help us with this study," said Shen. "The correlation study assists our analysts in testifying about alcohol results in a variety of scenarios to a jury. We appreciate the help."

As the DoD's premier medical research center, NHRC's cutting-edge research and development is used to optimize the operational health and readiness of the nations armed forces. Within close proximity to more than 95,000 uniformed service members, world-class universities, and industry partners, NHRC's expert team sets the standards in joint ventures, innovation, and practical application.

For more news from Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, visit

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