Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) welcomes new medical examiner

The office is also newly accredited

Salt Lake City—Dr. Deirdre Amaro is the state’s new medical examiner and comes to us from the University of Missouri in Columbia. She replaces Dr. Erik Christensen, who retired from state employment after spending nearly 16 years with the medical examiner’s office, first as a deputy and then as the chief medical examiner beginning in 2016. Dr. Amaro is a quadruple-board certified pathologist with a keen interest in public health and how the work of the medical examiner’s office ultimately serves the living to advance health for individuals and the population as a whole. She will begin fulltime in-person work for the Office of the Medical Examiner on July 1.

Her appointment and pledge to continue the work of her predecessor comes as one of Dr. Christensen’s long-time goals is recognized. The DHHS Office of the Medical Examiner recently received accreditation from the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME). NAME accreditation is an endorsement that indicates the office or system provides an adequate environment for a medical examiner in which to practice his or her profession and provides reasonable assurances that the office or system well serves its jurisdiction.

The DHHS Office of the Medical Examiner (OME) was established in 1972 under Title 26, Chapter 4 of the Utah Health Code: Utah Medical Examiner Act. In 2023, the office investigated 7,899 deaths (approximately 35% of the deaths in the state). The OME investigates deaths that are sudden, unexpected, violent, suspicious, or unattended throughout Utah.

“The OME serves a critical role in each of our lives, whether we recognize it or not. Not only do we help individuals work through the closure of the loss of a loved one, but we also play a key role in public health surveillance, particularly with alerting health officials to new threats to the public’s health,” said Dr. Amaro.

The medical examiner’s office started looking at data in 2008 to gather information about drug overdose deaths and was instrumental in alerting officials to this significant public health problem in Utah. Dr. Michelle Hofmann, DHHS deputy director says, “The OME’s office is an important part of our goal to improve health outcomes, both physical and mental.” OME staff have been instrumental in suicide prevention efforts across the state. She adds, “The office conducts psychological autopsies to better understand the circumstances of youth suicide to provide support to schools and local communities after a suicide.”

Investigations performed by medical examiners help public health understand the causes of death, monitor evolving health challenges, and ultimately, help save lives.