New York City chief medical examiner resigning

Dr. Barbara Sampson is the first woman to hold that role in NYC.

November 29, 2021, 12:08 PM

Dr. Barbara Sampson, the first woman to lead the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in its 100-year history, announced her departure Monday for a job in the private sector.

Sampson has been with the agency 23 years, nine as chief, and steered it through the grueling onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were so overwhelmed with the number of fatalities here in the city that we needed every OCME employee to be part of our COVID response,” Sampson recalled in an interview with ABC News.

Prior to the pandemic, Sampson oversaw the autopsies of Eric Garner, Joan Rivers and Jeffrey Epstein, each of which generated a degree of public controversy

Dr. Barbara Sampson is shown in this undated file photo.

“Keep with the truth and what is based in science and in medicine you can't go too far astray,” she said of her guiding philosophy.

Sampson has championed new technology for DNA analysis and for opioids detection so autopsies can more quickly inform public health officials and law enforcement about what drugs are on the street.

She has maintained the office’s commitment, started under her predecessor Dr. Charles Hirsch, to keep examining human remains recovered from the 9/11 attacks. There were new identifications on the 20 year anniversary.

Sampson told ABC News she didn’t think much at the time of her appointment about being the first woman chief medical examiner in the city, but reflected on it now she is leaving her post for a position in the Mount Sinai Health System.

“I was clearly a role model for so many women who are interested in careers in medicine in science and in government. I found that now looking back extremely rewarding,” Sampson said.