City Administrator Carmen Chu Announces David Serrano Sewell as Executive Director of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

David Serrano Sewell will work closely with Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Christopher Liverman to build on recent successes of the OCME.
December 19, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO—City Administrator Carmen Chu today announced the appointment of David Serrano Sewell as the new Executive Director of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). Serrano Sewell has served as the OCME’s Chief Operating Officer since 2020 and has been instrumental in implementing key operational improvements that have strengthened the delivery of services. As Executive Director, Serrano Sewell will manage the Office’s day-to-day operations and serve as the department head. The Chief Medical Examiner will continue to supervise all assistant and deputy medical examiners and be responsible for making all final decisions assigned to a medical examiner or coroner by State law. 

“I am very pleased to appoint David Serrano Sewell as the head of this critical department,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu, who oversees the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. “Over the last two years, David has proven himself to be a visionary and steadfast leader. He’s focused on how the organization runs, implementing necessary operational improvements and ultimately driving towards our City’s successful re-accreditation. His commitment to excellence and his close partnership with our Chief Medical Examiner will serve our City well in the years ahead.” 

In this role, Serrano Sewell will work in close partnership with Chief Medical Examiner Christopher Liverman to build on the OCME’s recent successes. Since the Chief Medical Examiner’s appointment in May 2021, Serrano Sewell has worked closely with Dr. Liverman on numerous initiatives to implement policy and procedural improvements, including eliminating case backlogs, closing significant staff vacancies, and quickening the completion of final reports and death certificates. In November 2022, the OCME achieved prestigious full accreditation from the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME), recognizing the success of the Office’s reforms and administrative and budgetary support from the Office of the City Administrator. 

“It is an honor to serve in this role and contribute to the important work in this office, to help bring closure to families and their loved ones and provide important data to improve public health outcomes,” said Serrano Sewell. 

“David has been an exceptional leader and fierce advocate for the OCME,” said Chief Medical Examiner Liverman. “I look forward to continue working with him and the OCME team to excel at fulfilling all responsibilities of the Medical Examiner’s office with the highest standards of ethics and excellence.” 

As Chief Operating Officer, Serrano Sewell successfully championed administrative reforms that strengthened the OCME’s ability to provide prompt investigation of those deaths under its jurisdiction, deliver impartial forensic services for the community and the justice system, and inform vital public health initiatives. Key improvements include: 

  • Resolving the backlog of cases to bring more expedient closure to descendants’ loved ones; 
  • Enacting a systematic review and update of office policies, focusing on best practices with an equity lens, such as 
    • drafting the OCME’s first-ever policy on honoring decedents’ gender identities, particularly of transgender and non-binary decedents 
    • developing quality assurance review process to ensure the accuracy and completeness of reports  
  • Recruiting critical new staff to fill vacancies and balance workloads; 
  • Instituting a new system for the timely transfer of forensic reports for adjudication by the justice system in criminal proceedings; 
  • Partnering with the Veterans Administration to ensure that indigent veterans are interred with full military funeral services and near their next of kin; and 
  • Coordinating cross-agency teams of policymakers and public health experts to review overdose data and help inform public health and safety initiatives. 

“As a longtime former colleague of David Serrano Sewell’s in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, I know firsthand his commitment to public service and professionalism,” said District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey. “David’s leadership and hard work were instrumental in gaining full accreditation from the National Association of Medical Examiners recently, and I have every confidence that he will continue to uphold the highest standards of professional excellence in his new role as the director for San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.” 

Serrano Sewell joined the OCME with over 16 years of experience developing management structures, building consensus, and achieving policy improvements in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors. He previously served as a Mayor’s aide, Deputy City Attorney, and a policy advocate for public and nonprofit hospitals. Serrano Sewell earned a Juris Doctorate from the Golden Gate University School of Law. He has lived in the Mission District with his spouse, daughter, and two cats since 1991. 

The OCME is responsible for the investigation and certification of any sudden, unexpected, and violent deaths of legal or public health interest, including determining the cause, circumstances, and manner of death. The OCME also provides useful reports, such as the monthly Accidental Overdose Reports and the Homeless Death Count, to inform public health experts and policymakers. For more information, please visit the OCME’s website.