For Dr. Nadia Granger, the best part of being Monroe County Medical Examiner is being able to provide a final diagnosis to family.
"Being able to explain to them what may have been happening, that is the rewarding part to me,” said Granger. “Being able to find the answers.”
It's a career the U of R alum decided to pursue when she lost her aunt while attending college.
“I was very curious. There was no one there to answer questions for me and it was an opportunity not only to answer those questions for myself but also answer questions for other families who were going through the same thing I was,” said Granger.
Forensic pathology is facing a crisis — a nationwide shortage. According to experts, there are only 500 licensed full-time medical examiners in the country, though 1,200 are needed.
Making matters worse is a huge jump in opioid-related deaths, which make up about half of the workload handled by the ME’s office. That’s why Granger joined local and federal officials pushing a new fellowship program at the University of Rochester.
At one point recently, the Monroe County ME’s office was down to just one pathologist — a full staff is four. The situation created a backlog, and some autopsies were sent to outside pathologists.
Sen. Charles Schumer is asking the justice department to help fund the Forensic Pathologist Fellowship.
“This will expose our medical students in a way that other medical centers don’t have right now, to the field of pathology when they’re young and impressionable and might go into this field,” said Dr. Bruce Smolter.
“We’re going to have a continuous supply of medical examiners, not just for Monroe County, but to hopefully help solve this crisis throughout the country,” said Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo.
Last year, Granger’s office investigated 128 opioid-related deaths. Another 25 cases are still pending.
“With the opioid crisis and the complexity we’re dealing with, that has caused the problem to be more on the forefront,” said Granger.
Monroe County has since hired a second pathologist, and a third will begin work next summer. Granger is confident the new program, and her role, can help steer more people to the career she loves.
“It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. It’s a great time,” said Granger.