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Medical Examiner’s Office Gets Temporary Chief

With Maryland’s chief medical examiner, David R. Fowler, due to retire at the end of the month, the Maryland Department of Health announced Tuesday that the deputy medical examiner, Pamela E. Southall, will run the agency on an acting basis.

As required by law, the appointment was made by the state’s Post Mortem Examiners Commission, which will conduct a national search for a permanent replacement. The Health Department anticipates the search to replace Fowler will take six to nine months.

“We thank Dr. Fowler for 17 years of service and appreciate Dr. Southall stepping in as Acting CME to direct this vitally important office,” said Health Secretary Robert R. Neall. “Maryland is fortunate to have one of the nation’s leading medicolegal institutions, not only for conducting critical investigative, public health and educational roles, but also for seeking justice for the deceased and assisting loved ones through the process.”

Southall is a 16-year veteran of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) and is a board-certified forensic pathologist. She received a Doctor of Medicine degree from Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and completed a pathology residency at the University of Maryland Medical System in Baltimore.

The OCME is a statewide agency that investigates deaths from injury, homicide, suicide, unusual or suspicious circumstances, or when a person is not attended by a physician at the time of death. The state invested $43 million to open a state-of-the-art OCME facility in Baltimore in 2010, providing the latest forensic technology for the work of medical examiners.

Along with the responsibility of determining the cause and manner of death, the OCME serves a critical public health role by identifying lethal injury trends or infectious diseases that may pose a risk to Marylanders. The work of the OCME also assists with criminal investigations when a death is determined to have been a homicide.

In recent years, caseloads at the OCME have increased, primarily due to the opioid epidemic. In 2018, the office received over 15,000 death referrals from the state’s 24 jurisdictions; from those referrals, it conducted more than 5,700 autopsies.

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Medical Examiner’s Office Gets Temporary Chief