Dr. Steven Campman of the county Medical Examiner’s Office at press conference on prescription drug-abuse report. Image via YouTube.com

A retired Air Force colonel and 20-year county employee who has been serving as interim chief medical examiner has officially accepted the role on a permanent basis, county officials announced Friday.

Dr. Steven Campman, the former chief deputy medical examiner — had been filling the director position in an interim capacity for the past four months. He will be responsible for nearly five dozen employees and a budget of $12.1 million.

Campman said he intends to carry on the reputation of the office as one of the top forensic pathology facilities in the country, as well as providing education and assistance to families of the deceased in a timely and professional manner.

“I want to make sure that the department is a valuable contributor to the safety and health of the people of the county by determining the cause and manner of death for all sudden and unexpected deaths in the county — making sure that we document what conditions cause unexpected death in our population,” said Campman, who has worked for the county since 2001.

According to Campman, it is important that the medical examiner’s office learn from that information so the region can guide resources and policies to improve overall health and safety in the future.

“Every single investigation is valuable, whether to the decedent’s family, or to attorneys or an insurance company,” he said. “But what we can learn from all deaths together is valuable to understanding what is going on in our community.”

Prior to joining the county, Campman worked for the Armed Forces Medical Examiner and served more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserve, retiring as a colonel in 2016.

He has conducted more than 5,000 autopsies, served as an autopsy supervisor for more than 800 cases, testified in hundreds of court proceedings and been published more than a dozen times in medical journals and forensic/pathology publications

He said the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office faced several challenges last year, not just with COVID-19 but also with fentanyl-related deaths and overall case volume.

“We had initial jurisdiction over about 41% of the more than 25,000 deaths registered in San Diego County in 2020 and ended up transporting about 14% of those decedents back to the facility for examination to determine cause of death,” Campman said. “Last year’s case volume was the greatest we’ve ever investigated at 3,853.”

In addition to COVID, Campman said the office helps ensure county residents are living safely by providing data to government officials on societal issues such as the rise in fentanyl-related cases, the opioid epidemic, methamphetamine abuse, suicides, child fatalities and homeless deaths.

Campman said this data can then be used to help San Diego County government agencies implement programs to address current trends and to target the most vulnerable residents.

Campman is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and the Creighton University School of Medicine and completed his residency at UC Davis Medical Center Department of Pathology and his fellowship through UC Davis at the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office.

–City News Service

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