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Guam's medical examiner planning his retirement

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It's not a job for the squeamish. But, it's an important job to ensuring the justice system works. After serving over two decades as Guam's chief medical examiner, Dr. Aurelio Espinola is making plans to retire. Who could take his place? Recruitment starts now.

23 years as Guam's doctor for the dead, Dr. Espinola's contract nears end in January of 2019. As chief medical examiner, his job is to perform autopsies, especially for those who passed under unusual or suspicious circumstances. From there, he'll determine the cause and manner of death. The job often requires he work with police, investigators, witnesses, and the victims' families.

When foul play is involved, his findings could result in an arrest and trial. What he says in court in front of a jury often determining a defendant's fate. His job isn't only on Guam, but he also serves as medical examiner for the CNMI and Palau, and also has some cases in Texas.

"This is a very important job anywhere," described the physician, "because if you don't have medical examiner, you can guess what will happen - the guilty will go free. We are the ones who look, who testify in court, if he's guilty or not."

But, whoever is his successor has big shoes to fill...and few are qualified to apply. "It's hard,' Espinola admitted. "It's hard to find because there are very few medical examiners in the whole world. There are very few training programs."

Doctors for the dead require much more training than those with live patients, which could be why so few pursue the profession. "If you go to surgery, you only need four years," he quantified. "If you go to forensics, at least nine years."

Interestingly enough, Dr. Espinola first started his career delivering babies - as an OB/GYN. He explains why he changed paths, saying, "That's ambition."

His secret to success in the field? He shared, "You don't use your heart."

Once retired, the 77-year-old plans to move back home to the Philippines, and surprisingly, work in a completely different field: he tells KUAM he'll manage a beauty parlor in Quezon City.

He hopes that someone watching will want to take on his job, explaining that the work load is manageable, and cases in Guam less violent than bigger jurisdictions. "There are few cases here and the cases are not difficult," he said.

In his career, he estimates he's examined more than 50,000 dead bodies.

While it's a thankless job, he doesn't seem to care. "I like this job. I'm not looking for a reward," he said in his usual humble fashion.

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