Become a Local Medical Examiner

Thank you for your interest in being appointed as a local medical examiner (LME). Local medical examiners play a critical role in Virginia’s medicolegal system. Many of our local medical examiners serve out of a sense of community responsibility.   Others enjoy the interaction they have with their community’s first responders and law enforcement officials. These intangible aspects of the job are added incentives to the pay they receive for their services. Whatever your reasons for serving may be, we are sure you will gain a new sense of fulfillment as a local medical examiner. Our system simply would not function if it weren’t for the compassionate, community minded physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants like you throughout the Commonwealth who choose to become local medical examiners.

A local medical examiner in Virginia shall be a Doctor of Medicine, a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, a Nurse Practitioner or a Physician Assistant appointed by law to determine the cause and manner of death of persons who die under specific circumstances outlined by the Code of Virginia. For some background information on the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the types of deaths investigated by the medical examiner system please click here.

The LME liaison for the OCME manages the appointments for the local medical examiners and works with the respective district offices with onboarding new local medical examiners. You may contact the OCME’s LME liaison, Perla Santillán, via email at for any questions you may have regarding local medical examiner appointments.

Qualifications of a Local Medical Examiner

The minimum requirements to be a local medical examiner in Virginia include:

  • A valid, unrestricted Virginia license as a Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Nurse Practitioner, or Physician Assistant
  • A valid United States driver’s license
  • Appointment is contingent upon satisfactory results of a state and federal criminal history background check

Submit Request for Appointment as Local Medical Examiner

If interested, please submit a letter of interest requesting appointment as a local medical examiner along with a copy of your curriculum vitae, driver’s license, and Virginia professional license. Interest in being appointed as a local medical examiner may be mailed directly to the Chief Medical Examiner (address below) or emailed to Perla Santillán at

William T. Gormley, M.D., Chief Medical Examiner
Virginia Department of Health
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
400 East Jackson Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219-3694

Need for Local Medical Examiners & Training

When the OCME receives a local medical examiner interest the OCME’s LME liaison in conjunction with the respective district office assesses the need in the area of interest. Some localities may not have a need due to the number of current local medical examiners appointed to that locality and the average caseload in that locality. Therefore, upon receipt of an interest letter, the OCME will contact you to inform you that the interest packet was received and whether or not there is a current need in the area of interest. This ensures that the OCME has an appropriate number of local medical examiners per locality based on caseload. The OCME may have a dire need for local medical examiners in some localities, specifically more rural areas.

Training and orientation are completed at the respective OCME district office based on the localities that fall within that district. A background check will be completed prior to appointment. Further details regarding training, orientation and qualifications may be discussed with the OCME LME liaison.

Appointment Term & Reappointment

Once appointed, the statutory term for a local medical examiner is three years beginning on October 1st of the year of appointment. Interim appointments between official appointment dates can be completed as well. Therefore, appointments as a local medical examiner may occur any time of the year and reappointments at official appointment times.

Reappointment as a local medical examiner is not guaranteed and is contingent on performance and adherence to expectations outlined for local medical examiners, which will be covered prior to training and appointment.

Duties of a Local Medical Examiner

Local medical examiners do not take calls for the OCME but will be contacted once there are external examinations that need to be completed once disposition is determined. Local medical examiners, depending on where they serve, may complete external examinations in one of the district offices, a hospital or even at a funeral home establishment.

Every local medical examiner is trained on how to properly respond to a scene on behalf of the OCME in the event that that local medical examiner is asked to respond. However, responding to scenes as a local medical examiner is not a requirement but training during orientation is required.

Lastly another service that local medical examiners provide is cremation authorizations for funeral homes and crematories. This authorization is required for cremation of any decedent who died in Virginia. Local medical examiners do not have to perform this function; however, it is a service to your locality and will benefit funeral homes and crematories in your locality, so they do not have to travel to the closest OCME district office or nearest locality with a local medical examiner.

Although it is impossible to place a monetary value on the services the medical examiner offers their community, the local medical examiners are compensated on a case-by-case basis. Specific compensation questions can be discussed with the OCME’s LME liaison but local medical examiners are compensated by the OCME for completing external examinations and responding to scenes upon completion and submission of necessary documentation covered during orientation. Lastly, local medical examiners will be compensated for cremation authorizations upon the request of a funeral home or crematory. Funeral homes pay local medical examiners for each cremation authorized.