Speaker Paper (Dr. Carl Selavka)
Dr. Carl Matthew Selavka is one of the world-renowned forensic toxicologists of today. Dr. Selavka has a strong background in biology, chemistry, and forensics, and illustrated that it would be very helpful in the field of forensic science. His background originated from Indiana University where he received his Bachelor of Arts double major in Chemistry and Forensic Science and at Northeastern University where he received a Master of Science in Forensic Chemistry in 1985 and his Doctor of Philosophy in Forensic Analytical Chemistry in 1987. Upon completing the ROTC program at Indiana, Dr.
Selavka went to serve the US army. Upon serving, he attended graduate school and continued in education until he received his Doctoral at Northeastern before serving as an active duty member in the United States Army Medical Service Corps from 1987 to 1991. After serving a number of positions in the US Army medical service corps, Dr. Selavka began a career as Director of Forensic Operations at the National Medical Services, Inc. in Willow Grove, PA. One of the main duties he undertook included overseeing the Forensic Science Division of a private toxicology and criminalistics laboratory.
In February 1994, Dr. Selavka was promoted to the Director of Criminalistics where he undertook the responsibility of all administrative aspects of the Criminalistics Department. During his position here, he oversaw many different cases where the quantitative and qualitative analysis of drugs found in things ranging from botanicals to IV bags was performed. In 1996, Dr. Selavka left this position to become a Director of Forensic Services at the New York State Division of Criminal Justice services in Albany, New York.
In the two years he was there, he accomplished many things from directing the implementation and maintenance of the DNA databank for NY State convicted offenders to implementing centralized training for NYS forensic scientists. By the summer of 1998 Dr. Selavka had transitioned to Director of the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory system in Sadbury Massachusetts. The State Police Crime Laboratories were engaged in all types of criminalistics analysis ranging from forensic DNA testing to toxicology to processing evidence from murder, rape and arson cases.
Dr. Selavka was responsible for the State DNA Databank and Office of Alcohol Testing. After a nine year period working for the Massachusetts State police, Dr. Selavka left and became a Forensic Science Officer for the US Army Criminal Investigation lab in FT. Gillem Georgia for a year. He then worked as a Production services Manager for the US Air Force Drug Testing Laboratory in Brooks City-Base, San Antonio, Texas until April of last year. Dr. Selavka currently works as a Forensic Toxicologist for Avee Laboratories in Clearwater, Florida.
He is also a Forensic Reporting Officer at Trimega Laboratories, Ltd. in London, UK; Cape Town, SA; Ulm, Germany, and a Consulting Forensic Scientist for the Department of Defense and Para-military organizations. Dr. Selavka’s presentation ranged on the many different aspects of Forensic Toxicology. The first part of his discussion centered on the types of drugs toxicologist are interested in. Drugs that were mentioned included benzodiazepines, depressants, opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana and alcohol. Dr.
Selavka pointed out that Alcohol stands out from the other drugs as it is the largest contributing factor to vehicle related accidents as well as consequently deaths. Dr. Selavka also included regular toxicologist studies such as the testing for carbon monoxide, cyanide, inhalants, metals, pesticides and herbicides. Dr. Selavka throughout his discussion participated in numerous engaging interactions with the students, often of comedian value as he illustrated the quantitative and qualitative factors of the range of drugs he discussed about.
He also shared that baby boomers used drugs, only now were they using expensive opioid pharmaceuticals that they got prescribed from their doctors. Dr. Selavka had numerously communicated that “the statistics don’t lie”. A major area that Dr. Selavka has also considerable experience is testing for compliance. He mentioned that any type of employment that are considered safety and security sensitive positions will require some type of bodily testing to detect the presence of illegal drugs. The most common type of testing is urine testing. Dr.
Selavka also spent a great deal of time explaining in detail how drugs enter the system, what happens when they enter, and how they leave. He explained the importance of this in four steps of what he calls “The Average Man Theory”. This theory was similar to what we have been covering in class from chapter nine. The difference was that Richard Saferstein focused on the details of how alcohol is absorbed, distributed, and eliminated in the body, while Dr. Selavka explained in greater detail how alcohol and other drugs go through this process in a human body. Dr.
Selavka also explained the importance of each step on how it relates to testing and its elimination in the human body. In His presentation, Dr. Selavka also discussed how during the absorption process of a drug enters the blood stream through skin, lungs, or gastrointestinal tract and is carried by simple diffusion via plasma, proteins, or red blood cells. Alcohol was discussed in great detail, given its major role in our society. and Dr. Selavka mentioned some interesting facts that has also been mentioned in our textbook regarding alcohol and its absorption.
Richard Saferstein demonstrates in his text book how alcohol can be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream at radically different speeds based on the total time taken the consume the drink and its alcohol content, the amount consumed, and the quantity and type of food present in the stomach while drinking. Dr. Selavka discussed this process in a very similar fashion. After explaining the processes of absorption, Dr. Selavka discussed the distribution, metabolism, and excretion of the alcohol content. Dr.
Selavka used a chart in his presentation to communicate get detection windows of certain drugs and how long they last in the human body. This allowed easy comparisons and conclusions to be drawn from how long drugs stay in the human body and when to consider testing urine, oral fluid, breath, blood, sweat, and hair respectively. The information on a sweat patch testing was new to me and I found it incredibly fascinating all the while simplistically brilliant, or brilliantly simplistic. Dr. Selavka went on to explain the different types of testing and spent a great deal of time talking about hair testing.
He expelled many rumors about hair testing that the class had preconceived, and clearly described the boundaries of hair testing today. He presented a diagram of the Dermal Papilla and explained how in this area the blood flow nourishes the bottom part of the hair located near the dermis and that it is where blood delivers drugs that become permanently trapped in the hair. After explaining the complexities of hair analysis, Dr. Selavka finally concluded the future of drug testing and its limitations and what to expect in the near future.
Dr. Selavka’s presentation was very extensive and provided a range of information presented in a calculated manner. The quality of his presentation parallels that with his expertise in the field, and really engaged the class in participating and running mock conclusions based on previous cases he had encountered. All in all, he is clearly one of the leading experts in his field, world-wide. If he had more time, I would have asked him if he believed drug testing had a future, or could people be, ironically, using drugs to clean other drugs?