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Grand Opening and Dedication (April 12, 1999) | Print |

The Grand Opening and Dedication Ceremony for the Fulton County Medical Examiner Center was held on Monday, April 12, 1999 at 9:30 AM. The agenda was as follows:

Presiding: The Honorable Nancy A. Boxill, Fulton County Commissioner, District 6

Welcome and the Occasion: The Honorable Nancy A. Boxill

Invocation: The Reverend Howard W. Creecy, Fulton County Chaplain

Greetings from the Community: Ms. Sharon Collins, President, Mechanicsville Civic Association

Greeting from the National Association of Medical Examiners: Edmund Donoghue, MD, President

Remarks from Special Guests

Recognitions and Dedications: Randy Hanzlick, MD, Chief  Medical Examiner, Fulton County

Special Presentations: The Honorable Tom Lowe, Fulton County Commissioner, District 4

Concluding Remarks: The Honorable Nancy A. Boxill

The Ribbon Cutting

Reception and Facility Tour

Remarks of Edmund R. Donoghue, MD
Chief Medical Examiner, Cook County, Illinois
President, National Association of Medical Examiners

"Members of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, Dr. Hanzlick, distinguished colleagues, and esteemed guests: Many problems face medical examiners throughout our country, among these are obtaining adequate funding, attracting highly talented people to work in the field, and setting reasonable expectations for performance. Deaths in police custody continue to create problems.

Many controversial issues facing medical examiners involve the deaths of infants and children. These deaths include child abuse, Shaken Baby Syndrome, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and serial infanticide. World events have made the United States a target for biological and chemical terrorism, and medical examiners will be the early warning system for these occurrences.

We are not here today to discuss the problems of medical examiners. We are meeting on this site in the Mechanicsville community of Atlanta for a celebration and dedication. As a medical examiner, I understand that nothing occurs in the medical examiner's office without the support of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners and the people of Fulton County. It is important that we recognize the Board of Commissioners for the important decision they made in constructing the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Center. The truly wise investment that the Board of Commissioners and the people have made here will pay dividends to your community for many years to come.

When Cook County was thinking of establishing a medical examiner system, nearly eleven years after Fulton County, some people said "but there are no forensic pathologists in Illinois." I am reminded of the movie "Field of Dreams" and the famous line "If you build it, they will come." By building a splendid facility like this, you have created an environment where forensic science will be nurtured and can thrive. You have made Fulton County a place that will attract the best and brightest forensic pathologists in our country.

Your community already has two world-class medical institutions: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory University School of Medicine.   You have virtually guaranteed that Atlanta and Fulton County will become a leading forensic science center in the United States and the world.

You have also chosen wisely in the man selected to lead this organization into the next century. Your Chief Medical Examiner is an outstanding forensic pathologist. He is held in high regard by his peers. I know that he is vitally concerned about the public health of your community.

From the National Association of Medical Examiners and our members throughout the United States and Canada, we extend our congratulations and say to you "Well done, Fulton County.""

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Remarks of Randy Hanzlick, MD
Chief Medical Examiner, Fulton County (July 1 1998 to present)

There’s a Latin phrase above the entrance to some autopsy rooms, which in English reads "This is the place where death delights to serve the living." Providing service to the living is what we do here. When deaths result from injury or poisoning, or when death is sudden, unexpected, and not reasonably explainable at the time of death, questions arise which need to be answered. What caused the death? Was someone else responsible? Is this a job-related death? Was there foul play? Did death result from some medical problem that might run in our family? Are any of my family members at risk for dying of the same disease? Did my brother suffer? What might we have done to prevent this death? Providing answers to such questions benefits families, law enforcement agencies, the court system, agencies concerned with public health and safety, and the community in general. In short, we strive to foster public health, safety, and well-being, and performing professionally-conducted death investigations is how we pursue that goal. We now have here a wonderful place to serve the community.

In the late 1800s, William Gladstone said "Show me the manner in which a community cares for its dead and I will measure with exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the law of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals." These words show wisdom. The Fulton County Commissioners have also shown wisdom through their support of the planning, funding, and building of this beautiful, modern, and functional facility in which to provide professional, efficient, and compassionate service to the community. From the bottom of my heart, on behalf of the 42 dedicated and talented employees who work here, and on behalf of the entire community, I sincerely thank the Commissioners for their wisdom and support.

The service we provide goes beyond the answering of questions related to individual deaths. This place is an educational facility as well. Here we provide training to physician pathologists and other trainees and students who are specializing in the field of death investigation. These programs are done in conjunction with local colleges and universities. Most of the medical examiners currently practicing in Georgia have worked for or have trained at the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office, which has therefore contributed to improvement of death investigation throughout the state. A number of our graduates also serve in other areas of the country. Our nationally accredited forensic pathology training program is funded and operated in conjunction with Emory University School of Medicine. I would like to thank Dr. James Madara, Professor and Chairman of Pathology at Emory, and Dr. Sharon Weiss, Director of Anatomic Pathology at Emory, for their ongoing support of our educational and academic pursuits. Information we gather during our death investigations has been, and continues to be used to prepare published reports and articles in medical and scientific journals which advance the fields of medicine, public health, and forensic pathology. For example, this office, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published the first study of deaths among the homeless population. Dozens of other reports and publications have also been prepared through the work of this office. Currently, a report is being prepared about pedestrians struck and killed by vehicles which will soon be published by the CDC. Training opportunities will expand here. The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Center will continue to contribute to the science of public health and death investigation in areas of national import and interest in addition to the day to day services provided locally. In this new facility, we anticipate that such work will expand even further in scope.

There are so many people and organizations who played important roles in the planning and building of this facility that I do not have time to acknowledge all of them personally today. Their names, affiliations, and contributions are printed on the program agenda provided for you. There are several individuals and organizations, however, whom I must acknowledge…

Ms. Sharon Collins, President of the Mechanicsville Civic Association, and the residents of Mechanicsville, for accepting us in your community and participating in the planning and addressing of issues that impact on the community;

Dr. Saleh Zaki, Chief Medical Examiner Emeritus, now retired, for his dedication and success in the pursuing, planning, design, and ultimate construction of this new Fulton County Medical Examiner Center;

Dr. Mark Koponen, Past Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, now Deputy Chief Medical Examiner with the Georgia Division of Forensic Sciences, for his ingenuity and skillful collection of information used in the planning and design of the facility;

James A. Walker, Deputy Director of Administration for the Fulton County Medical Examiner, for his ongoing assistance in financial, structural , and administrative planning;

Dennis McGowan, Chief Investigator for the Fulton County Medical Examiner, for his remarkable commitment and virtual day to day interface with the diverse group of people involved in the planning, construction, and troubleshooting regarding literally every aspect of this facility’s design and construction;

Dr. Eric Kiesel, Fulton County Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, for his overseeing of construction issues and office management after Dr. Zaki’s retirement;

The employees of the Fulton County Medical Examiner, who have continued to provide the highest level of public service through sometimes difficult times occasioned by our transition to this new facility, and with the admirable energy and devotion that has typified the medical examiner’s staff for decades;

The architectural firm of Stanley, Beamen and Sears for their initial program and design which became the foundation for the layout of buildings and spaces in their final form;

Mile Tallent, Project Executive, Kajima Construction, for his unwavering diligence in assuring that the quality of the design and construction process met the high standards set out at the building project’s inception;

Rob Minx, Project Superintendent, Kajima Construction, for his skillful management of this complex construction project, and for instilling a sense of pride in the workers who recognized the unique and important aspects of this facility;

Construction manager Art Frazier, of RMJ Construction, for shepherding this project to completions through his professional and well-done job as the central figure in all communications between the builder and the many parties involved in the project on behalf of Fulton County;

The Honorable Nancy A. Boxill, Fulton County Commissioner for District 6 in which our new facility is located, for her keen interest and ongoing support of this project and representation of the community’s interests;

and The Honorable Tom Lowe, Fulton County Commissioner for District 4, for his important role in the Commission’s decision to support this project and assuring our acknowledgement of important individuals by the dedication of buildings in their honor.

And that brings us to the dedications portion of this ceremony. In 1965, Fulton County became the first county in Georgia to abolish the elected office of coroner, and establish in its place an appointed medical examiner required to be a pathologist. Harold Thompson Dillon, MD, was a pathologist who had worked in the coroner’s office and was named the first Chief Medical Examiner of Fulton County in 1965. The Dillon Special Services Building, the third building back from us, is named in his honor for pioneering the implementation of a medical examiner system in Fulton County. The Dillon Building is where specialized examinations will occur, such as those that involve skeletal remains or deceased individuals who have been dead for long periods of time before being found.

Doctor Robert Rutherford Stivers had worked with Dr. Dillon as a forensic pathologist and became the 2nd Chief Medical Examiner after Dr. Dillon’s death in 1970. Dr. Stivers was instrumental in the design and construction of the first free-standing medical examiners building at 50 Coca Cola Place, and for developing a modern death investigation system. The Stivers Scientific Building, the middle building in this center, is named in his honor and houses the postmortem examinations room, photography and technical support services, the tissue processing laboratory, a viewing room for observing autopsy procedures, and an operating room which may be used to obtain tissues for transplantation if the deceased family members desire that tissue donations be made. Dr. Stivers served as Chief Medical Examiner until 1988, having served the county for two decades.

Dr. Saleh A. Zaki had worked with Dr. Stivers for nearly fifteen years as a forensic pathologist, and became the county’s 3rd Chief Medical Examiner in 1988. The Zaki Administration building is named in his honor for his diligence and success in the planning, design, and ultimate construction of this new Medical Examiner Center. The Zaki Building, which is the one immediately before you, houses the administrative, medical, investigative, and administrative support personnel and also contains two rooms for interacting with and supporting family members of the deceased, two conference rooms, a media and emergency management room, a lecture room with modern audio visual equipment, and a library. Dr. Zaki served 10 years as Chief Medical Examiner until his retirement in 1998, having provided nearly a quarter century of service to Fulton County.

I’d like to add that both Dr. Stivers and Dr. Zaki were mentors of mine, as well as many others here today, and they taught us much of what we know about forensic pathology and death investigation.

Commissioner Lowe will now present the certificates of dedication which acknowledge the county’s dedication of these buildings to Dr. Dillon, Dr. Stivers, and Dr. Zaki. Portraits of these 3 individuals now hang in the main lobby of the Zaki Building for public view.

We have not been able to locate family or relatives of the late Dr. Dillon. Accepting the certificate on his behalf is James Walker. We will display the certificate here and will continue our search for family members.

[presentation by Commissioner Lowe]

Accepting the certificate for Dr. Stivers is his oldest daughter, Ann Stivers.   Doctor Stivers' was unable to be here today.  

[presentation by Commissioner Lowe]

Dr. Zaki is here today and will accept his certificate of dedication.

[presentation by Commissioner Lowe]

I have a few brief announcements. First, Dr. Donoghue, who spoke earlier, will be giving a lecture at 2pm in room 204 of the Emory School of Nursing. He will be talking about Forensic Pathology and Public Health, and all are invited to attend. Second, immediately following the ribbon cutting, our doors will be opened for all to enter and partake of refreshments, which have been provided by Kajima/Curry Construction. You will be able to walk through the various buildings, and a printed tour outline will be available for your use and reference while walking through the Center. FCME staff will be stationed throughout the facility to direct you or answer questions.  

Finally, I thank all of you for sharing this special day with us. We now begin a new chapter in the history of the Fulton County Medical Examiner and our service to the community with a vision of people, families, and neighborhoods.



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