2022 International Educational Outreach (IEOP) - Croatia
Source: Laura C. Fulginiti, PhD, 2022-23 AAFS President
The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) delegation to Croatia returned Sunday after a week of collaboration with our forensic science counterparts and touring the beautiful cities of Zagreb and Dubrovnik. Professor Dragan Primorac was our host during this extraordinary visit. Dragan is a long-time member of AAFS and the organizer of the International Society for Applied Biological Sciences (ISABS) Conference. He is responsible for the AAFS recognition of ISABS as an Associated Academy.
Our delegation consisted of President Laura Fulginiti, Past Presidents Carl McClary, Jeri Ropero-Miller, and Victor Weedn, Executive Director Donna Grogan, Alicia Pome, Lisa Dilbeck, Deborah Merritt, Andrea Zafares, Peter Ausilli, Daniel Marion, Jr., and the Honorable Daniel Martin. Our Zagreb itinerary included a tour of the city and breathtaking Plitvice Lakes National Park, sit-down meetings with the Deputy Prime Minister (Interior), the Minister of Health, the State Secretary of Health, and the Minister of Science and Education, a press conference with the Minister of Interior, a tour of the Ivan Vucetic Forensic Science Center with the Director Dr. Andrea Ledic, and an early morning interview on Good Morning, Croatia (including Laura Fulginiti, Carl McClary, Victor Weedn, and Dragan Primorac).
After three eventful days in Zagreb, we flew to Dubrovnik, one of the most memorable cities in the world. We were welcomed to the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace, which sits on the Adriatic Sea, by Prof. Primorac and our hosts Alanka and Marina. The view from the hotel is spectacular; nothing but greenish-blue clear water with reefs and rugged, treed shorelines. We caught a glimpse of Old Dubrovnik as we were whisked through crowded streets on our mini tour bus.
On Wednesday we started our day with a European breakfast, including cappuccino and espresso. We had our joint session with ISABS where the presentations ranged from fentanyl to in-custody deaths, aquatic death investigation, ancient DNA (aDNA) use in degraded bone, and standards in forensic science. Most of our delegation then braved the above-average temperatures and humidity to participate in a crime-scene investigation involving related cases on a floating barge. They were joined by Henry Lee who worked with Andrea Zafares and Pete Ausilli to create a real-life investigation experience for the ISABS students.
Thursday was the official opening day of the ISABS conference, and it began with a Plenary Session presented by Prof. Primorac, the Director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine, several Nobel Laureates, the Ministers of Interior and Science and Education, the State Secretary, and President Fulginiti. We had two charming interludes with Croatian singers and a dance troupe in traditional costume. Bonhomie was the word of the day as everyone celebrated the years-long collaboration between AAFS and ISABS. We had a massive team photo wearing our ISABS conference shirts (shot by a drone!). Then we ate again just to be sure our blood sugar didn't drop precipitously. That evening we were treated to a ride on a pirate ship and a seaside dinner in Dubrovnik.
We ate fish, toured the Old City, swam in the healing waters of the Adriatic Sea, drank Croatian wine and beer, and were treated like royalty and old, dear friends simultaneously. Most of us braved walking the walls of the Old City. The view from the top of the walls is indescribable. The sense of history and pride in Croatia is evident everywhere you look. Many of our delegation attended the ISABS conference where the lectures were high-level and engendered many discussions around the lunch and dinner tables, in the hallways, and in the sea. In the evening we were the honored guests at a gala dinner honoring the awardees from the conference. The event was hosted on the edge of the sea and included dancing and singing.
On Saturday we were treated to an all-day excursion to the Island of Korcula, one of the most charming of the many islands surrounding the Croatian coast. This city is a miniature version of Old Dubrovnik with medieval walls, cobblestones, cathedrals, and, of course, gelato. Ivan, our tour guide, was a fount of information regarding the history of Croatia, the modern triumphs and tribulations, and future expectations. We had an incredible day topped off by a swim and a dinner of fish and octopus.
While our travel to and from Dubrovnik was a bit fraught, the trip itself was unique and memorable. Professors Primorac and Ledic were the consummate hosts, charming and welcoming always. Our comfort was their primary focus, and we could not have asked for more. Croatia is a proud country, full of tumultuous history, fresh seafood, homegrown wines and beers, and friendly people. Hvala!!