Harvard academic and public-health expert to be New York’s next health commissioner

New York

Photo credit: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

ALBANY, N.Y. (WWTI) — Gov. Kathy Hochul has named Dr. Mary T. Basset as New York’s next commissioner of the Department of Health.

Basset has over 30 years of experience with a career spanning from academia, government and non-for-profit work, Hochul said.

“Dr. Bassett is perfectly equipped to lead the New York State Department of Health during this critical moment,” Hochul said in a press release. “When I was sworn in as Governor, I pledged to build a talented team with the skills, knowledge, and expertise to stop the spread of COVID-19, return our lives to normalcy, and move our state forward. Dr. Bassett is both a highly regarded public health expert and an exemplary public servant, and I look forward to working with her to keep New Yorkers safe and healthy.”

Basset said she was “humbled and honored” by the appointment.

“The pandemic underscored the importance of public health, while also revealing inequities driven by structural racism,” she said. “As we move to end the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to create a state that is more equitable for all New Yorkers. I look forward to working toward this with Governor Hochul and the team at the Department of Health.”

Bassett currently serves as director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

She also served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where she prioritized racial justice and worked to address structural racism. Bassett led the Department’s response to the Ebola, Legionnaires’ disease and other disease outbreaks.

Early in her career, she was on the medical faculty at the University of Zimbabwe, where she developed a range of AIDS prevention interventions. She then went on to serve as associate director of health equity at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Southern Africa Office, overseeing its Africa AIDS portfolio. After returning to the United States, she served on the faculty of Columbia University, including as associate professor of clinical epidemiology in its Mailman School of Public Health.

Basset holds numerous awards and honors, including the Frank A. Calderone Prize in Public Health, a Kenneth A. Forde Lifetime Achievement Award from Columbia University, a Victoria J. Mastrobuono Award for Women’s Health, and the National Organization for Women’s Champion of Public Health Award.

She is a former associate editor of the American Journal of Public Health. Her recent publications include articles in The Lancet and in the New England Journal of Medicine addressing structural racism and health inequities in the United States.

Bassett’s appointment is effective on December 1, 2021.

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