Texas A&M University Health Center

One fascinating class put Stacey Mitchell (Nurs ’96) on a path to providing comfort for thousands of people during their most chaotic moments.

Mitchell serves as clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Nursing. But her extensive background is in forensic nursing. “People think forensic nursing is CSI,” Mitchell says. “It’s not. It’s the health care piece. Forensic nurses are providing overall care to both victims and perpetrators of crime and violence.”

Mitchell took her first steps into this career while working on her master’s degree in nursing at UVA. “There was an elective course available in forensic nursing,” Mitchell says. “That showed me I could combine science and health care. I was hooked.”

Her later work in the emergency department at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond led to Mitchell becoming the coordinator of forensic nurse examiners at that facility. Eight years of seasoning then prepared her for a new challenge 1,300 miles away, in Houston: deputy chief forensic nurse investigator with the Harris County Medical Examiner’s office.

Her role with the HCME gave Mitchell insight into the volume of death and despair within the fourth most populous U.S. city. It prepared her to start and coordinate a full-service forensic nursing program within the Harris Health System.

She also served on a research committee that included the Houston Police Department and other community agencies. The goal: studying the issue of sexual assault kit backlog. “I enjoyed being part of the process,” Mitchell says, “because the outcomes are having an impact all over the U.S.”

The International Association of Forensic Nurses bestowed its highest award on Mitchell in 2015: the Virginia A. Lynch Pioneer Award, named after the association founder.