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Plaque at State Medical Examiner’s Building Dedicated to Longtime Chief Examiner – Dr. Henry Ryan
November 14, 2013
(Augusta) A plaque recognizing the many years of dedicated service by Dr. Henry Ryan, the long-time Chief Medical Examiner, has been unveiled at the Medical Examiner’s building in Augusta. Dr. Ryan is credited for making the Office an integral part of the State’s law enforcement efforts and for being the driving force in the creation of a permanent facility dedicated to post-mortem examinations.
Dr. Ryan began serving as the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maine in 1976 and conducted autopsies at funeral homes and hospitals until 1992, when the State of Maine finally provided a permanent location for these examinations to be conducted.
Attorney General Janet T. Mills credited Dr. Ryan’s leadership for the creation of the facility and ushering a new era in the field. “Henry Ryan transformed the practice of Forensic Medicine in Maine,” said Attorney General Mills. “He brought a new level of sophistication and advanced thinking to the practice. Working in conjunction with law enforcement, I have no doubt that his efforts have resulted in solving cases that might not otherwise have been resolved. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude and it is very fitting that this plaque will recognize his efforts for many years to come.”
In 1976 Dr. Ryan set about developing the Medical Examiner system in Maine as we now know it. The current Office of Chief Medical Examiner was inaugurated on Hospital Street in Augusta in January 1992. Dr. Ryan continued as Chief Medical Examiner until his retirement in 1998. He testified in hundreds of court hearings in murder cases and conducted thousands of scene investigations.
“I was privileged to work with Dr. Ryan for many years,” Attorney General Mills stated. “I always learned something new from him and saw firsthand how compassionate he was for the living, as he worked with great care and caution with the deceased.”
During Dr. Ryan’s 22 years of service, the Maine medical examiner system developed into a centralized, modern system. State statutes were updated. Educational programs were instituted, including a tie with the New England Seminar in Forensic Sciences at Colby College. Collaborative relationships with local and state law enforcement and the state crime laboratory were strengthened. The Maine Office of Chief Medical Examiner was one of few jurisdictions to utilize a multidisciplinary approach in death investigation beginning in the late 70s, including forensic anthropology, entomology, and other forensic sciences.
“Dr. Ryan set the standard for dedication to his profession,” said Dr. Margaret Greenwald, current Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maine. “It is hard to imagine that our current, centralized system of medical examinations would have coalesced without his leadership. He wasn’t merely a gifted physician, he also excelled as someone who brought people together to solve problems and put the public interest first. That is a remarkable legacy.”
Dr. Ryan continued to work as a local Medical Examiner for many years after his retirement. On October 15th of this year, in a small ceremony, Dr. Ryan was honored by his friends and colleagues with a plaque that was placed at the entrance to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner. The plaque was funded by donations from many of the physicians, police officers and attorneys who had learned and benefited from his contributions to the Maine system of death investigation. The plaque reads in part “In honor of Henry F Ryan, MD; In deep appreciation for his unselfish service to the citizens of Maine. His dedication to forensic medicine, his vision and his tenacity helped make this building a reality.”
[Photo – Left to Right: Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Margaret Greenwald, Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, Dr. Henry Ryan, Attorney General Janet T. Mills]