- Associated Press - Sunday, June 21, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) - In an attempt to fill vacancies in its medical examiner system, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is exploring a fellowship program with the Medical College of Georgia.

In recent a meeting with coroners and lawmakers, GBI Chief Medical Examiner Kris Sperry said that hiring qualified candidates for open positions has been problematic because forensic pathology isn’t always an attractive profession. Sperry said he’s lost several colleagues to better paying systems in almost two decades at the helm.

Sperry said such a partnership has benefited the agency in the past, but it was discontinued in 2003, The Augusta Chronicle reported (https://bit.ly/1eADERz ).

Sperry said he hopes to sit down with Medical College of Georgia officials within the next month to discuss the possibility of renewing the fellowship program.

The meeting came about amid concerns about delays at the state crime lab in Decatur, the Chronicle reported. Lawmakers from the Augusta area had been advised that some toxicology and autopsy results were taking weeks — and in some cases months — to be returned.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said his agency fell behind during the last decade, as a result of the economic climate and budget cuts.

“Law enforcement wasn’t exempt from that, neither was the crime laboratory,” he said.

“We’re in better shape now than we have been in a decade because our backlog is not what it has been previously,” Keenan added.

Augusta lost its pathologist when Regional Medical Examiner Daniel Brown retired from the GBI’s Eastern Regional Crime Lab in 2013. Although Sperry has sought to fill the vacancy by offering his colleagues in Decatur a 10 percent pay increase and promised to cover moving expenses, no one has come forward, the Augusta newspaper reported.

Now, the GBI hopes a new partnership with the Medical College of Georgia could help train new medical examiners.

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Information from: The Augusta Chronicle , https://www.augustachronicle.com

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