Utah has a new medical examiner its fifth in six years.
Dr. Suzanne Dandoy, executive director of the Utah Department of Health, said Wednesday that Dr. Todd C. Grey will be promoted to the top position, effective Sept. 1.Grey, who has served as assistant state medical examiner for the past two years, replaces Dr. Edwin S. Sweeney.
Saying he was fed up with long hours, low pay and poor working conditions, Sweeney resigned effective Aug. 26 to join Western Pathology Consultants, a private firm in Reno, Nev. The 36-year-old medical examiner said his $71,500 annual salary was very low compared to the average salaries for medical examiners in the West, about $100,000.
"At this point he (Grey) will be offered the same salary as Dr. Sweeney, but I will be going to the Legislature to ask for additional funding to raise it," Dandoy said. "Dr. Grey has agreed to accept the position only with the understanding that extensive efforts will be made to increase the salary."
A nationwide search was not conducted to fill the position.
"We decided we had an excellent candidate within the office of the medical examiner, so we decided to promote Dr. Grey - particularly since we felt we wouldn't have a fruitful search considering the salary," Dandoy said. "We will be recruiting to fill the assistant medical examiner's position."
Sweeney reacted enthusiastically to Grey's promotion.
"Dr. Grey has the ability to investigate a difficult homicide in the morning and talk sensitively to a family who has lost a child to sudden infant death syndrome in the afternoon. That is a rare quality," Sweeney said. "Utah is lucky to have him."
Sweeney said it's ironic that state is talking about raising the medical examiner's wages just as he is leaving. He jokingly said he's glad that he was able to make "some" contribution to the state.
In a recent Deseret News interview Grey said that coming to Utah was quite a change from his previous position as a fellow with the Dade County, Fla., medical examiner's office. There it is not uncommon to perform autopsies on several homicide victims each day.
By comparison, in 1987 the Utah medical examiner's office was involved in the investigation of about 2,000 deaths, including 61 homicides.
The office of the medical examiner by statute is responsible for the medical investigation of all non-natural deaths, except highway accidents, and of unexpected and unattended deaths. Grey wants his office to start investigating traffic-related deaths.
The state, he says, needs to document more completely the causes of traffic accidents. Intentional suicides and some alcohol-related deaths may now be missed in investigations, Grey said.
Grey said he agrees with Sween-ey's philosophy of not making the medical examiner's office a high-profile part of state government.
"We don't want to be like Quincy," the fictitious medical examiner played on the television series by Jack Klugman, Grey said. He said his priority is to do as good a job with cases as the office's resources allow.
Grey graduated from Yale University in anthropology in 1976. He attended Dartmouth Medical School, graduating in 1980. He received hospital training at the University of Southern California at San Diego and has worked at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital in Gallop, N.M.