xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Maryland’s overloaded medical examiner office gets a new chief

The state has hired a new chief medical examiner more than a year after the previous leader left, in part because of the crush of cases stemming from the overdose epidemic and violence.

The Maryland Department of Health announced Monday that Dr. Victor W. Weedn, a former examiner in the office, was appointed to lead the office. He comes during another deadly public health crisis resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Advertisement

The well-regarded office has faced a string of departures in recent years as cases piled up, threatening the accreditation that is necessary to not only build trust in the office’s findings but bolster court cases. The vacancies have proven tough to fill as fewer doctors choose to enter forensic pathology.

Enormous case counts per examiner and a lot of overtime had become common in recent years, though the state has leaned on some temp workers to ease the strain and raised pay to recruit and retain workers.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Weedn was appointed by the state’s Post Mortem Examiners Commission to lead the agency, officially called the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, after a national search, health department officials said. He is already familiar with the work environment, though not the most recent struggles, having served as an assistant medical examiner in Maryland from 2009 to 2012.

“Dr. Weedn is an experienced and well-regarded forensic pathologist who is more than capable to serve as Maryland’s chief medical examiner,” Dennis R. Schrader, the state acting health secretary, aid in a statement. “I’m confident he’ll excel in the role and advance one of the nation’s leading medicolegal institutions.”

The office is responsible for autopsies on people whose deaths were not attended by a doctor or if the death was unexpected or suspicious. Examiners determine the cause and manner of death. The office also helps identify deadly injury or disease trends, in addition to assisting with criminal investigations and operating a forensic medicine education training program.

The office is involved in about a third of all deaths in the state, thousands of cases that have meant each examiner has well exceeded the 250 annual limit set by a top national accreditation agency, the National Association of Medical Examiners. Last year, the office was at a five-year low for examiners with 16, leaving it in need of at least four more. Health officials couldn’t say Monday how many vacancies remain.

Advertisement

Weedn is a forensic pathologist and attorney who most recently served as a professor in George Washington University’s Department of Forensic Sciences, including as department chair from 2012 to 2018.

He also has served as a crime laboratory director and flight surgeon with the Air National Guard and is a former president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a current board member for the National Association of Medical Examiners. Weedn’s medical degree is from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Dallas, and his law degree is from the South Texas College of Law in Houston.

In Maryland, he replaces Dr. Pamela Southall, who has served as acting chief since December 2019, when Dr. David R. Fowler retired. Fowler said he left in part because of the strain of cases and the lack of resources. Fowler earned $289,000. Health officials couldn’t say Monday how much Weedn would earn.

“We extend our sincerest appreciation to Dr. Southall for her leadership and service over the last year,” Dr. Jinlene Chan, Maryland’s acting deputy secretary for public health, said in a statement. “She led the OCME through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensured that both personnel and operational needs were supported and addressed during a very challenging time.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement