the forensic chief
Kunjlata Ashar, MD
Photo by Stefan Radtke
Kunjlata Ashar, MD, is the second female medical examiner in Westchester County’s history, leading the 108-employee Department of Laboratories and Research, overseeing all county laboratories—an unusual set-up for most municipal governments.
Dr. Ashar is responsible for investigating and determining causes of death that occur in the county, and Dr. Ashar and her staff of four physicians perform roughly 550 autopsies a year. She is also in charge of the Division of Forensic Sciences, a crime lab that analyzes DNA and crime scene evidence.
But her responsibilities don’t end there. Dr. Ashar heads up the Divisions of Toxicology (which looks for drug and alcohol in a person’s system) and Microbiological Services (which identifies infectious agents to prevent the spread of disease), the Environmental Labs (which search for bacterial and chemical contamination in the sewers and well systems), and the department’s laboratory training program (which instructs the residents and fellows of New York Medical College and Westchester Medical Center).
In other counties, these labs would all fall under separate leadership and administrative control. Not in Westchester. “We aren’t a small group,” says Dr. Ashar modestly.