Maricopa County is offering a loan repayment assistance program to help recruit much-needed medical examiners.
The County will offer forensic pathologists up to $25,000 annually, up to $100,000. The average forensic pathologist graduates from medical school with $200,000 student debt.
"The work that we're doing, examining the dead, affects the living," said Chief Medical Examiner for Maricopa County Dr. Jeff Johnston. "Right now there are about 27 offices like ours that are competing for that small pool of about 500 physicians across the U.S."
The doctors, who need 12 to 15 years of higher education, have a lot of options when they graduate. But the county is hoping to pursued more graduates to public service.
The program is believed to be the first of its kind in the country for medical examiner or coroner's office.
"It helps those physicians early in their career, as they make their payments on their loans, to reimburse them on a quarterly basis," said Dr. Johnston.
The county hopes it gives them an edge because they know they can't really compete with the private sector where this job would pay $335,000 a year.
In the county, it pays about $185,000 a year. Therefore, they try to highlight the public service aspect that can have major impacts.
"We don't solve the problems really, our goal is to identify them," said Dr. Johnston. "Without medical examiners across the country, we wouldn't know there was an opioid epidemic right now."
Anyone interested in applying to be a medical examiner with Maricopa County can do so here.
According to the county job site, medical examiners make between $80 and $101 per hour.