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In the earlier part of the twentieth century, Florida elected peace justices in each county who held inquests when deaths occurred.   Following World War II, certain persons recognized the need for a medical examiner system.   These persons included Sheriff Thomas Kelly and Mrs. Claire Weintraub, a local resident active in civic affairs.  Consequently, laws were approved that provided for a full-time medical examiner who would be a County employee, and an office that would operate under the county government.  On March 16, 1956, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Department officially opened its doors.

Dr. Stanley Durlacher, a forensic pathologist and professor in the School of Medicine at Louisiana State University was selected as the County’s first Medical Examiner.  Serving as the first Assistant Medical Examiner, Dr. Joseph H. Davis would succeed to the Chief’s position less than a year later after Dr. Durlacher died in February 1957.

Dr. Davis’ tenure as Chief Medical Examiner would span four decades – from 1957 to 1996.  The department opened its operation in what had been Philbrick’s ambulance garage, located between 9th and 10th avenues on the east side of Jackson Memorial Hospital.  The Medical Examiner Offices would move two more times, always in proximity to Jackson Hospital, before arriving at its present location at Number One on Bob Hope Road (1851 NW 10th Avenue).

In honor of Dr. Davis and his many years of service to the County, the present facility is designated the “Dr. Joseph H. Davis Center for Forensic Pathology.”  This complex, which was constructed at a cost of $10.2 million and encompasses 89,500 square feet, opened in April 1988.

When Dr. Davis retired, Dr. Roger E. Mittleman succeeded to the position of Chief and guided the department through one of its more serious challenges – the crash of ValuJet flight #592 on May 11, 1996.

Today, Dr. Bruce A. Hyma heads the department as the Chief Medical Examiner, assisted by more than sixty other persons, including pathologists, photographers, investigators, toxicologists, and a records and morgue bureau staff.  Annually the department handles 2,500 autopsies and is prepared to serve County residents in the event of disasters such as Hurricane Andrew and the ValuJet crash.  The department is recognized throughout the United States as a leader in the field of forensic pathology.

Back to Top Page Last Edited: Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:33:32 PM

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