A year later, search for medical examiner still faces hurdles

MEDICAL EXAMINER: The chief medical examiner's office at Guam Memorial Hospital is shown in this file photo. A year after the position was left vacant, the search for a replacement continues. Post file photo

With almost a year gone since the government of Guam's forensic pathologist, Dr. Aurelio Espinola, retired, the Office of the Attorney General faces a number of challenges on finding a new medical examiner.

Carlina Charfauros, the spokeswoman at the AG's office, said there are a number of challenges: "First, the pool from which candidates are chosen is quite small. If memory serves me right, there are only about 700-800 forensic pathologists throughout the entire United States."

The salary for the new medical examiner may or may not be an issue, but it has been discussed in the previous Commission on Post-Mortem Examinations meetings, Charfauros said.

She said there has been discussion with the Northern Marianas attorney general's office "to see if we can pull financial resources together" to increase the salary of the medical examiner who can serve the region – not just Guam.

According to Charfauros, the commission continues to address the issues that come up at the medical examiner's office, while continuing the search for a permanent medical examiner.

Guam's chief medical examiner's pay has ranged from a minimum of $200,000 to a maximum of $250,000. 

An ad was recently placed on the National Association of Medical Examiners website: https://www.thename.org/job-openings. The website shows San Bernardino County is hiring a forensic pathologist for $203,070-$273,083 per year. Shonomish County in Washington State is offering to hire a deputy medical examiner for no more than $204,000 annually.

The Guam Police Department still needs the autopsy results on a man who died after the apparent shooting in Mangilao in December 2019.

"We can't say it's a homicide because we haven't done an autopsy yet," said GPD Chief Stephen Ignacio last month. "Without a full-time medical examiner, the government of Guam has to wait for a part-time physician from Hawaii or Saipan to conduct autopsies."

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