NEW YORK (AP) – The city’s long-serving medical examiner, who was injured in the Sept. 11 attacks but returned to work that day and then spent years overseeing the creation of the nation’s biggest DNA lab and identifying remains, is retiring.
Dr. Charles Hirsch was appointed in 1989 by then-Mayor Ed Koch, who recently died.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday officially announced the retirement of Hirsch, a leader in his field who has made a career of eschewing press and publicity.
“Dr. Hirsch was a visionary leader whose work earned him world renown and helped make New York City a global leader in the field,” Bloomberg said.
The 75-year-old Hirsch previously worked in Suffolk County and Ohio and served in the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps. He’s a native of Chicago.
In his years in New York City, Hirsch oversaw the creation of the largest public DNA lab in the country. Because of that lab, the office was able to take on the task of trying to identify the remains of the victims of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, work that continues.
Hirsch was injured when the south tower collapsed but returned to work that day despite broken ribs and cuts.
Hirsch also worked as the chairman of forensic medicine at New York University Medical School, and his training program became highly sought after, with waiting lists of sometimes more than four years, the city said. Among his trainees are more than a dozen who have gone on to become chief medical examiners for other states or cities.
Dr. Ross Zumwalt, chief medical investigator for New Mexico and a colleague from Hirsch’s years in Ohio, said Hirsch has always been “a wonderful teacher” who took more joy in seeing a student or colleague succeed than in reaching for the spotlight himself.
“He always thought that he could best promote forensic pathology by staying at home and doing a good job in his office and by example and by training good people,” Zumwalt said.
Dr. Barbara Sampson, Hirsch’s longtime deputy, succeeds him as acting chief medical examiner.
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