Georgia Bureau of Investigation takes bold step to hire more medical examiners amid shortage

ATLANTA — There’s a crisis at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The state’s investigation unit doesn’t have enough medical examiners to keep up with the workload. That could have a direct impact on local families waiting for closure about their loved one.

Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston learned the agency is making big changes to find workers.

Ashley Garrish, assistant deputy director of the medical examiner’s office said, “We as a country need at least 500 additional doctors. Forensic pathology takes a special person who wants to work in this field in death investigations, so there are fewer people who are aware that it’s an option.”

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The need is just as dire here in Georgia. There are so few available doctors in the U.S. that the GBI is now looking around the world for medical examiners, Garrish told Channel 2 Action News.

“We just got approval to be a H-1B visa sponsoring employer.”

That means GBI can now offer jobs to non-U.S. citizens to fill positions.


Johann Claassens came to the U.S. from South Africa on an H-1B work visa. He said, “The program is absolutely awesome, it helps agencies like us and other people like us to hire skilled workers that you might not have gotten from here.”

Claassens is a forensic scientist at the GBI. He says at his Columbus, Georgia, office there isn’t a medical examiner, and he hopes this push to get one helps with the backlog of cases. He said, “In the place I come from, South Africa, we had very qualified people with board certifications, so I’m sure this program will help us to fulfill our needs.”

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