AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — The death of a loved one can often leave families with questions and many times an autopsy can provide some answers.

“So we get to try and figure out what was their cause of death and hopefully bring a little bit of peace to their family members and bring them some closure,” Medical College of Georgia pathology resident Dr. Taylor Sliker said.

Forensic pathologists perform autopsies and help to bring families closure, but a statewide shortage means there are more bodies at coroners’ offices across the state and fewer pathologists to process them.

“I noticed that we have a large number of medical students, but not a lot of pathology in general and even fewer go into forensic pathology,” Sliker said.

Dr. Taylor Slicker is a fourth-year pathology resident at the Medical College of Georgia studying to become a forensic pathologist.

“I discovered forensic pathology where we get to do autopsies and kind of solve the puzzle for certain families,” Sliker said.

The American Journal of Medicine and Pathology states in 2020 only 57 medical school residents in the country took the forensic pathology board exams, in 2021 that number dropped to 38.

Sliker said fewer students may be leaning toward forensics because it isn’t as lucrative as other specialties.

“Forensics is one of the lower paying pathology specialties that you can get into, so I definitely think that’s a factor for some people especially with some of the mounting medical school debt that we have to pay off.”

Sliker said her love for helping people keeps her on the forensic pathology path as she prepares for a fellowship at the GBI in Atlanta.

She hopes others will also continue to pursue forensic pathology.

“I think it would be a good experience to stay here and help with that shortage.”