Reducing Forensic Pathologist Shortages

October 06, 2021

Context and Considerations

The opioid epidemic has exacerbated the shortage of board-certified forensic pathologists, presenting a major workforce challenge for public health systems. This brief examines the forensic pathology shortage and outlines considerations for federal and state partners looking to address this issue.

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Board-certified forensic pathologists play a critical role in public health by investigating death so as to better serve the living. Despite forensic pathology’s contribution to public health surveillance, prevention, and response, the discipline remains largely under-resourced. This brief spotlights a local effort to address financial disincentives for medical graduates entering the field and highlights federal funding opportunities and resources for state partners looking to minimize forensic pathology workforce shortages.

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A recent surge in overdose deaths combined with the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic has translated into larger case volumes for medical examiner and coroner systems. States continue to struggle with growing, recruiting, and retaining board-certified forensic pathologists, resulting in a constricted workforce pipeline. This brief spotlights the critical role that international medical graduates play in minimizing forensic pathology workforce shortages, highlights some of the bottlenecks and limitations of the visa process, and examines considerations for state partners looking to harness the talent of these essential specialists.

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