Local program prepares doctors for Medical Examiner's office

DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A local program with the Medical Examiner's office is working to fill the void of doctors in the field.

The Forensics Pathology Fellowship with the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's office was established in 1960. The program helps to prepare participants for careers in forensics pathology.

Dr. Todd Barr recently completed the program and is heading to work at the Summit County Medical Examiner's Office. Barr says that many medical examiner's offices across the country are struggling to find the staff to perform autopsies that need to be completed.

In May, Akron experienced one if its deadliest fires after a family of seven was killed by an arsonist. The effort to identify their bodies moved slowly because just two doctors perform autopsies at the Summit County Medical Examiner's Office.

"The plane crash that was there in 2015, they've certainly had their share of unusual deaths and investigations," said Barr.

Barr was the only fellow this year for a program that accepts just a few annually. It's been a long journey for the doctor, who decided to go to medical school at 32 years old.

Now his hard work makes him just the 48th graduate of the program since it began in 1960.

And when it comes to this field, the demand doesn't meet the supply.

"Right now nationwide we need about 1,100 forensic pathologist, currently there's about 480 that are working full-time right now, so were only operating at a 50 percent capacity nationwide," said Barr.

Barr said there are a many reasons that cause the shortage. He says salaries of medical examiners are slightly less than other surgical pathology positions, and student loan debt can be a deterrent. He also thinks many people aren't aware of the opportunities available.

Plus, the job demands a unique skill set.

"You got to have a way to detach during autopsy, but you're also gathering information and evidence so it's an important job," said Barr.

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