State names new chief medical examiner

Dr. Elizabeth Bundock

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine has announced that Dr. Elizabeth Bundock has been appointed as Vermont’s chief medical examiner. Bundock, who joined the Department of Health in 2007 as deputy chief medical examiner, takes over the state office that oversees death investigations, following the retirement of long-time Chief Medical Examiner Steven Shapiro, MD.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is responsible for investigating deaths that take place in Vermont, ensuring accurate and complete assessment of cause. In her new role, Dr. Bundock will oversee the state’s forensic pathology services with an eight-person staff and a statewide team of 32 community-based assistant medical examiners who are medicolegal death investigators. The office itself, along with its examining room and lab facilities, are located at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

“We are fortunate to have Elizabeth as part of the OCME team, and I am grateful she has agreed to take on this important job,” said Levine. “She has the expertise and experience, but perhaps more importantly, she has a deep sense of empathy and understanding of the very personal nature of each death,” Levine said. “We all saw this first-hand when Dr. Bundock was a leader in search and recovery efforts at Woodlawn Cemetery in Rochester, when 2011 Tropical Storm unearthed and displaced dozens of remains which needed to be re-identified and re-interred.”

More than 6,000 people in Vermont die each year, with about 10 percent of those requiring a forensic examination by the OCME. It’s the role of the medical examiner’s office to determine the cause and manner of deaths and contributory conditions whenever possible. In addition, the investigations by the state’s medical examiners are a critical part of promoting public health in Vermont. Their findings are a key source of data about the illnesses and conditions that contribute to deaths in the state – data that informs policies and programs to help prevent those causes and promote Vermonters’ overall health and quality of life.

 The OCME caseload that drives this work has nearly doubled in the past decade and is expected to increase, due in part to the state’s overall growth amid an aging population, as well as the tragic outcomes brought about the Covid pandemic and an ongoing opioid crisis.

Until his retirement this past summer, Shapiro was Vermont’s longest serving chief medical examiner, holding that position for nearly 20 years. At the time he took over as chief, the office caseload was low and the system a patchwork of death investigators. Levine credits Shapiro with strengthening the system and preparing it for 21st century challenges. “Steve developed a dedicated, statewide professional team of death investigators and office staff, and an operational system that provides the people of Vermont with exemplary forensic pathology services.”

Bundock is a forensic pathologist and neuropathologist. She joined the Vermont Department of Health in 2007 as deputy chief medical examiner, having come from New York City and Massachusetts medical examiners’ offices.

In addition to overseeing medicolegal death investigations, training death investigators and students, and performing autopsies in Vermont, Bundock is a neuropathology consultant for other medical examiners, and reviews deaths during investigations and legal proceedings for multiple jurisdictions outside of Vermont.

Bundock completed a doctoral degree in neuroscience and medical degree at the Chicago Medical School – Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Illinois, residency in pathology and fellowship in neuropathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and fellowship in forensic pathology at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner. She also has mass fatality management training through Disaster Mortuary Operations Response Team.

Bundock has particular interest in epilepsy-related deaths, sudden pediatric death, and head trauma. She has peer-reviewed publications on subjects of pathology and death certification and has participated on national, multi-professional committees to improve investigation, autopsy, and certification of sudden deaths of children and persons with epilepsy.

Bundock recently co-authored the first national guidelines for investigation, certification, and family assistance for sudden child deaths that initially seem unexplained.

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About the Author: This item was edited from one or more press releases submitted to The Chester Telegraph.

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