D.C. could at last have board-certified chief medical examiner

Outgoing Chief Medical Examiner Marie-Lydie Y. Pierre-Louis, seen in 2004. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post) Outgoing Chief Medical Examiner Marie-Lydie Y. Pierre-Louis, seen in 2004. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Next year, for the first time in a decade, the District could have a board-certified chief medical examiner.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced Friday he was nominating Roger Mitchell, an assistant state medical examiner in New Jersey, to succeed Marie-Lydie Y. Pierre-Louis as the city’s top forensic pathologist. The hope, Gray said, is that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will soon regain national accreditation, which it lost in 2011.

Pierre-Louis has served in the post since 2003 and has been credited with reducing a once-staggering backlog at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The D.C. office had not been accredited from 1987 until it regained a provisional accreditation under Pierre-Louis in 2008.

But her lack of certification from the American Board of Pathology was a persistent issue. Twice she had to be exempted from a District law requiring board certification for her position, and her status was the primary reason the National Association of Medical Examiners revoked the provisional accreditation in 2011.

Keith St. Clair, a Gray administration spokesman, said “board certification absolutely was and remains the roadblock” on accreditation. “The thinking on this is, when there is a board-certified chief medical examiner, the certification process would follow quickly,” he said.

Pierre-Louis has been asked to stay on as a medical examiner after stepping down from the top job, the release said. Mitchell has ties to the Washington area, with an undergraduate degree from Howard University and a stint at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico. In a statement circulated by the mayor’s office, Mitchell said he will “strengthen efforts to ensure that [Office of the Chief Medical Examiner] becomes accredited.”

St. Clair said Mitchell will likely start in February. The nomination is subject to D.C. Council confirmation.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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Mike DeBonis · December 13, 2013