Former NYC health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett named to lead state health department

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Dr. Mary Bassett

FILE- In this Aug. 8, 2015, file photo, Dr. Mary Bassett, New York City’s former health commissioner, addresses the media during a news conference in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

NEW YORK — Dr. Mary Bassett, former New York City health commissioner, has been tapped by Gov. Kathy Hochul to lead the state’s Department of Health.

Bassett’s appointment goes into effect Dec. 1, and she will replace outgoing state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. 

Zucker, who was appointed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015, announced his resignation last week. He has been criticized over his handling of pandemic, especially in relation to nursing homes.

“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,” Hochul said. “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.” 

Bassett currently serves as director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) 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 the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene from 2014 to 2019 where she made racial justice a priority and worked to address structural racism.

As NYC’s health commissioner, she also led the department’s response to Ebola, Legionnaires’ disease and other disease outbreaks in the city. 

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