"I knew we had an image problem," Clark told the group of Rotarians Feb. 9. "Half of the people I asked didn't even know who the coroner of EBR was."
Clark, 38, a Baton Rouge resident, said the focus of his campaign was dignity for the dead, compassion for their families and service to law enforcement.
Clark is an emergency room physician who often works at Lane Regional Medical Center, St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales and LSU's Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge.
He is also the medical director for the Louisiana State Police Special Weapons and Tactical Team and is an assistant medical director for the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office SWAT team.
He has previously served as the volunteer physician for the EBRP Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and was part of the SWAT team sent to New Orleans to help rescue Hurricane Katrina victims from flood waters.
"I've had the same training as these police officers have," Clark said. “Because of my law enforcement experience, I understand how to work cooperatively with detectives to bring justice for victims and their loved ones.”
“I’ve been able to create a pretty unique bond with law enforcement,” Clark said, adding that the role of the coroner’s office is key to ensuring a clear and uncontaminated chain of custody for evidence when authorities investigate a death.
As coroner, Clark's job is three-fold: he determines cause of death, investigates sanity cases and handles all male sexual assault cases. The female cases are sent to Woman's Hospital, which is certified in rape exams and collecting forensic evidence for rape cases.
Child sexual assaults are sent to a pediatric unit at Our Lady of the Lake.
"We determine cause and manner of death, however we don't get all death cases," Clark said. "If a person was in the care of a doctor the last 24 hours of his or her life, it is not a case for the coroner."
EBR is the largest parish in the state, and an average of 4,500 death cases are sent to his office each year.
"If you're concerned about the mental health of someone or that they may be a danger to themselves, my office can issue a 72-hour hold or an order of protective custody," said Clark. "In some instances, we can issue a 14-day hold, after that it becomes a case for the courts."
Clark sees about 6,000 of those cases annually, and they range from substance abuse to bipolar/schizophrenia cases.
The sexual assault cases in males are very few, Clark said, and most are prison related.
The coroner's office, an investigative branch of office funded by City-Parish on an annual budget of $1.5 million, operates with a staff of 12 and five contractors.
The Coroner is a state official, considered a peace officer and answers to the State Legislator. The office does not have a term limit.
Clark is married to Vanessa Young Clark and together they have two children.