The Maricopa County board of supervisors has approved a new loan repayment plan incentive that the county hopes will boost the recruiting and retainment of forensic pathologists for the medical examiner's office.
The county announced the loan repayment assistance program as it faces what it calls a shortage of forensic pathologists and an increased caseload partly due to the opioid epidemic.
“There just aren’t many people who are trained and capable of doing this job, so it’s imperative that Maricopa County distinguish itself as an employer of choice for medical examiners,” District 1 Chairman Denny Barney said in a press release. “Today’s vote is one step in what I hope is a committed long-term process of attracting the best medical examiners to help us solve crimes, spot trends, and provide answers to those grieving the loss of a loved one.”
According the county, the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner is expecting to handle over 5,800 cases this year. As the average forensic pathologist graduate has close to $200,000 in student loans after medical school, the county is hoping the new incentive program will widen the pool of medical examiner applicants.
“We want them to come to Maricopa County knowing, if they commit to us, we will invest in them,” said Dr. Jeffrey Johnston, chief medical examiner for the county. “This program is a major incentive as we seek to fill open positions, reduce turnover, and ultimately, better serve the public.”