Georgia struggles with shortage of medical examiners

Medical Examiners needed in the GBI Crime lab
Medical Examiners needed in the GBI Crime lab(Abby Kousouris)
Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 8:32 PM EDT
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ATLANTA (WRDW/WAGT) - A nationwide shortage of medical examiners is leaving Georgia families without answers because their loved ones’ cause of death is still not known.

Rachel Geller, associate medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, is hoping for answers.

Everyone is going to die. And to the dead, we owe the truth, she says.

It’s hard to do when you don’t have enough workers. The GBI forensic team is slotted for 18 positions, but there are eight vacancies.


The shortage is blamed for a backlog of cases in the state’s crime labs.

There are roughly 750 board-certified forensic pathologists in the country, but the National Association of Medical Examiners feels a need for that number to double.

Roughly 40 medical students in the U.S. get board-certified each year.

The GBI is trying to attract students while they’re in school.

Students like Emory medical student Blake Behrman.

“The school is long and you go through many years of schooling and you achieve a lot of debt,” Behrman said.

This year, the Georgia General Assembly created the student loan repayment program for medical examiners.

If you sign on to work for the GBI- the department will help to erase up to $120,000 over a five-year period.

Behrman is hoping to fill one of the open positions in 2025, along with some of his classmates.

In addition to the debt payoff incentive, the starting salary is $250,000.