Dane County has hired its first medical examiner, beating a state mandate that requires elected coroners to be replaced in counties whose populations exceed 500,000.

County Executive Kathleen Falk announced Wednesday that Vincent Tranchida, a senior medical examiner in New York City, will take the post on Feb. 1, pending County Board approval.

He will replace acting Coroner Barry Irmen.

I wrote about the county's plans to switch to a medical examiner system in a"> story a year ago, after the county's population had reached over 480,000. At that time an official with the University of Wisconsin, which currently contracts to perform autopsies for the county, had hoped the county would reconsider the move.

Tranchida will take over coroner's duties as well as conduct autopsies to determine the cause and manner of deaths, which coroners typically are not qualified to do.

While not required by law, nearly 30 Wisconsin counties have switched to a medical examiner system, which gives county officials a tighter rein on the office. Most of those medical examiners, however, are not qualified to perform autopsies.

Former Dane County Coroners John Stanley and Ray Wosepka, who both died in office -- Wosepka last March and Stanley in September of 2009 -- backed the transition of the Coroner's Office to a Medical Examiner's Office.

"Vincent's education and experience working in one of the busiest medical examiner's offices in the country make him the perfect choice to be Dane County's first medical examiner," Falk says in a news release. "He knows how to both help families and work with law enforcement. He's the right person to lead our hard-working team of deputy medical examiners."

Tranchida also teaches anatomy and forensic pathology to medical students, the news release says.

He will be paid $190,000 a year, considerably more than the $77,688 coroner's salary. But the county will see savings in the cost of autopsies, which in 2007 and 2008 averaged $189,722 a year.

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