Gov. Hochul appoints Dr. Mary T. Bassett as NYS Health Commissioner

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(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

ALBANY, N.Y. (WWTI) — New York State has a new health commissioner.

On Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul appointed Dr. Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH, as the Commissioner of the Department of Health. According to Gov. Hochul, Dr. Basset has over 30 years of experience with a career spanning from academia, government and non-for-profit work.

Our recovery from this pandemic requires tested leadership and experience to improve health equity and access across the state, and Dr. Bassett is perfectly equipped to lead the New York State Department of Health during this critical moment,” Governor 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.”

Dr. Basset also commented on her appointment.

“I am humbled and honored to return to my home state of New York to lead the Department of Health at this pivotal time,” incoming Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett said. “The pandemic underscored the importance of public health, while also revealing inequities driven by structural racism. 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.”

As stated by the Governor’s Office, Dr. 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 previously served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene from 2014 through summer 2018. In this role, she prioritized racial justice and worked to address structural racism. Dr. Bassett also led the Department’s response to  Ebola, Legionnaires’ disease and other disease outbreaks.

Early in her career, she served on the medical faculty at the University of Zimbabwe for 17 years. During this time 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.

Dr. Basset holds many awards and honors. This includes 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 has also been elected a member of the National Academy of Medicine. For many years she served as an 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.

Dr. Mary T. Bassett’s appointment is effective on December 1, 2021.

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