Medical Examiner

Polk County Government, Des Moines, IA, US


Distinguishing Features of the Class: Under the administrative direction of the County Administrator, performs responsible professional, administrative, and managerial work in directing the activities of the Polk County Medical Examiners Office in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local regulations and statutes.

Responsibilities include performing medicolegal autopsies and Examiner duties in accordance with sections 331.801 through 331.805 of the Iowa Code. Exercises considerable independent judgment and professional knowledge of medicine and forensic pathology.

Illustrative Examples of Work:

  • Plans, directs, and supervises the work of professional, technical, and administrative support staff; effectively recommends actions related to selection, performance evaluations, work schedules and assignments, grievances, and discipline; administers personnel and related policies and procedures.
  • Develops and implements policy and procedural controls; evaluates operational efficiency; determines operational needs and develops objectives.
  • Reviews reports of death received from hospitals, private physicians, and law enforcement agencies and determines jurisdiction of cases; issues preliminary report of cause of death in cases where further investigation is not required; prepares certificates of cause of death and releases body for burial; issues cremation permits.
  • Reports to the scene of death or discovery of remains as required to provide professional assistance; supervises medical investigators performing death scene investigations; examines body and surroundings; determines the need for a complete postmortem examination and orders bodies removed to the office of the Medical Examiner; ensures proper handling of organs, tissues, bodies, and items found on or around the body, and collection of unclaimed bodies.
  • Performs medicolegal autopsies/examinations; oversees and conducts death scene investigations to determine the cause or manner of death; evaluates microscopic materials, examines evidence, photographs and medical records, prepares written autopsy protocols; directs the activities of staff in preparing bodies for autopsy; examines wounds and notes abnormal conditions or discolorations of the body; directs the photographing of the body prior to, during, and subsequent to post-mortem examination; reviews current literature in the field and researches histories of prior cases for background information in formulating decisions; determines the existence of criminal acts or negligence on the part of person or persons responsible.
  • Explains cause of death to relatives of the deceased, law enforcement agencies, and the County Attorney; furnishes the County Attorney and law enforcement officials with medical and scientific evidence; testifies in court as an expert witness; gives depositions.
  • Provides assistance to law enforcement agencies operating within the County by drawing blood for alcohol/drug analysis and obtaining specimens for laboratory testing in cases of alleged sexual assault.
  • Prepares and administers the operating budget and strategic plans for the department; assures proper allocation and accountability for expenditure of funds; researches and identifies potential sources of fiscal or service support which would increase departmental efficiency.
  • Provides for training and development of staff in medical, forensic, and legal issues or concerns.
  • Prepares RFP specifications for outside services; ensures contractor compliance.
  • Makes presentations to the Board of Supervisors and community groups on Medical Examiner issues; prepares reports of the activities of the department.
  • Attends training and conferences as required to maintain certification and to remain current on trends or issues in forensic pathology; participates in state and local forensic organizations and programs to provide input, increase knowledge in forensics, and maintain recognition for the quality of the Polk County Medical Examiner services.
  • Coordinates departmental activities with law enforcement agencies, court officials, and the State Medical Examiner; represents the County in contacts with civic groups, other governmental agencies, and the media.
  • Directs the proper maintenance, handling of records and storage of specimens/evidence; maintains complete records of all relevant information concerning deaths/crimes requiring investigation by the Medical Examiner’s Office.
  • Performs related duties as required.



Required Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • Knowledge of the procedures involved in detecting, analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting manifestations or symptoms of physical conditions from postmortem pathological examinations.
  • Knowledge of the principles and practices of general medicine/surgery and the proper disposal of contagious and/or infectious materials and waste.
  • Knowledge of federal, state, and local statutes and regulations pertaining to County Medical Examiner operations.
  • Knowledge of established procedures for receiving, storing, and releasing of bodies.
  • Knowledge of the principles and practices, instruments, and methods used in the collection and processing of post-mortem evidence.
  • Knowledge of microscopy, toxicology, ballistics, and investigative techniques as they relate to forensic pathology.
  • Knowledge of the rules of evidence in criminal law as they apply to the preservation of specimens from post-mortem examinations and examination of physical evidence.
  • Knowledge of statistical methods and procedures.
  • Knowledge of photographic techniques used in evidence examination and courtroom presentations.
  • Knowledge of scientific research methods and procedures.
  • Knowledge of public or business administration including the principles and practices of effective supervision and fiscal management.
  • Skill in performing medicolegal autopsies and death scene investigations.
  • Ability to use microscopes, surgical tools, and other equipment in medical examination investigations.
  • Ability to detect, analyze, evaluate, and interpret manifestations and symptoms of physical condition from pathological examinations and solve complex problems arising from examinations/autopsies.
  • Ability to effectively supervise professional, technical, investigative, and clerical staff.
  • Ability to testify as an expert witness.
  • Ability to communicate clearly and concisely, verbally and in writing, to groups and individuals.
  • Ability to respond to emergency situations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with public officials, State Medical Examiner, law enforcement, County Attorney, medical professionals, representatives of the media, county staff, and the general public.

Training and Experience:

  • Graduation from an accredited school of Medicine or Osteopathy, licensed to practice medicine in the State of Iowa, and Board certified or eligible to be certified in Anatomical/Forensic Pathology or currently enrolled in a forensic pathology fellowship.
  • Prefer experience working as a Medical Examiner or Forensic Pathologist.

Special Requirements:

  • A criminal background check is required.
  • A drug screen is required prior to final offer of employment.
  • A State of Iowa driver’s license is required.


Salary range is $250,000 - $350,000 DOQ

How to apply

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