Assisting The Police In Tricky Cases, Dr. Hemlata Pandey Is One Of The Few Odontologists In India
- IWB Post
- June 14, 2019
Meet Dr. Hemlata Pandey, one of the few forensic odontologists working in India. Odontology is a specialized field of dentistry, which is useful in cases of unidentified bodies that are found, since dental patterns are a person’s unique signature. This helps in identifying the culprits in cases of sexual assault when they leave bite-mark injuries.
For the past five years, Pandey has been working at King Edward Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. She has been assisting the local and outstation police as well as the Central Bureau of Investigation in such cases.
But even though odontology is proving to be of such importance in cases, it still remains in its nascent stage in India. When Pandey was completing her undergraduation at KEM Hospital, there weren’t any forensics teachers as the discipline was deemed as “not important from an exam point of view”.
So, Pandey completed her masters in Wales and came back to KEM Hospital in 2013. “I wanted to come back, and develop the field here,” she said.
“It is not as glossy as it seems on the outside,” said Pandey. She shared how she struggled a lot at the time of her joining KEM as she had to approach the police offering to help with cases she read about in the newspaper.
Even today, her department has no adequate supplies as sometimes they have to get the necessary items from other departments, not to mention the pressure from police. “They see things getting solved on television in an hour,” she said. “So we need to explain to them that we need time for accurate results.”
While that initial struggle may be somewhat over, her task as an odontologist is no piece of cake. Like once, when the police brought her a body for identification, Pandey and her team only had a group photograph featuring a woman from a village in Maharashtra as help. They zoomed the picture and it was her smile that gave them an indication of the nature of her dental alignment and also showed a gap in the front teeth.
Pandey had also assisted in the Ahmednagar rape case two years ago where the victim’s body bore “multiple bite marks in the same spot”. She concluded that the profile of one of the suspect profiles matched the bite marks.
“When we are successful, it is very fulfilling, but it is also frustrating sometimes and I think a clinical career would have been more settled,” Pandey said. “But overall, I am happy our work is being recognised.”