Meet India’s first dentist-cum-crime solver

Dr Hemlata Pandey Gala is a forensic odontologist, who helps police solve crime using dental evidence. She is India’s first woman pursue this profession, and she enjoys every moment of her work

Hemlata-Pande

A lot of us know about forensics through crime novels, television shows or movies. It is natural get drawn into the fascinating world of cracking criminal cases using forensic evidence. Imagine doing this for real!

Dr Hemlata Pandey Gala, a forensic odontologist or forensic dentist, has been helping cops crack cases using dental evidence. Her field is a niche in forensic sciences as well as dentistry, and becoming the first in any field is a mark of hard work and courage. While her unique expertise is difficult to find, Dr Pandey Gala said her ride has been far less than smooth.

“I am a forensic odontologist, who solves criminal cases taking dental evidence,” said Dr Pandey Gala, adding, “This is a niche field in India, when started her career, nobody would give me a job!”

“Nobody knew what I had studied,” she said, adding, “Forensic dentistry is one of the most neglected subjects. Curious to know about this subject, I started my own research. I then went to the United Kingdom for further studies. I came back and struggled to find a job as this field is rare and so are the experts in the field! At last, I joined KEM Hospital in Parel in 2013.”

Dr Pandey Gala has been instrumental in solving various criminal cases in the country. She works closely with the police and is almost always part of cases that have bite marks as evidence. “Whenever there are cases of gang rapes and similar heinous crimes, I work with the police to present bite marks as key evidence in cases,” she explained.

When asked if being a woman in a man’s world is tough, Dr Pandey Gala said it’s all about perception. “There are about 15 doctors in my department now and surprisingly, all of them are men. Forensics is a niche field and there are very few women in this field. But I must say that each member of my department is unique and amazing,” she added.

Elaborating on the experience of working with the police, Dr Pandey Gala said, “The police force is one of the best agencies to work with and the police officials are the best acquaintances ever. They are very respectful and hardworking.”

Dr Pandey Gala owes her success to her mentor and her parents. “I am grateful to my mentor and the head of the department of forensics at KEM, Dr Harish Pathak. Also special thanks to Dr Avinash Supe, the dean of the hospital. There are many others whom I must thank, but it’s a never-ending list. My parents have been very supportive, but initially they were worried about financial implications of my career choice,” she said.

And what is the most important aspect of forensics? To this, Dr Pandey Gala said, “Ethics is the key to excellence and forensics is all about principles and ethics. I don’t give up on my principles.”