The beleaguered D.C. Medical Examiner's office, plagued with resignations in the last two years, has hired a pathologist to fill one of three vacancies in the six-person office.
Dr. Silvia O. Comparini, a native of Chile and a graduate of Santiago College and Catholic University of Chile, where she received her medical degree, was hired last week as a deputy medical examiner. Comparini is the first female to hold the District post.
Comparini, who came to the United States in 1967, completed a three-year residency in pathology at Highland General Hospital in Oakland, followed by a one-year residency at the University of California at San Francisco.
In 1974 she was awarded a one-year grant to study forensic pathology at the chief medical examiner's office in New York City and in 1975 was hired as a medical examiner for Manhattan. Most recently, she was a member of the Kern County, Calif., coroner's office and studied forensic toxicology with the Bakersfield, Calif., coroner.
"I was looking for an office that had prestige and that had done investigative and research work," Comparini said of her decision to accept the District position. "You never stop learning, but I was at a point in my career where I wanted to go forward and expand my practice."
She said the D.C. Medical Examiner's office has "the advantage of working in direct contact and collaborating with the National Institutes of Health, known universities, the Smithsonian Institution" and other government, academic and research organizations.
The D.C. Medical Examiner's office has been without a chief medical examiner since May 1973, when Dr. James L. Luke resigned because of budget problems that he said prevented him from doing his job properly. At the time of his resignation, Luke said low salaries had hindered him in recruiting and keeping qualified doctors.
Last July, acting chief medical examiner Dr. Douglas S. Dixon resigned, claiming city officials had exerted "political pressure" in an attempt to influence his office's investigations and findings.
A spokesman for the D.C. Department of Human Services said that the search for a new chief and deputy chief is continuing.
Three other medical examiners have resigned in the last 21 months, many citing low pay, long working hours and a requirement that medical examiners live in the District.
Staff shortages brought on by resignations were blamed for two incidents earlier this year in which the body of a prematurely born infant was accidentally discarded in the trash and another body was delivered to the wrong funeral home and cremated before the mistake was discovered.