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Mayor de Blasio Announces Dr. Mary T. Bassett Stepping Down as City's Health Commissioner

August 2, 2018

Dr. Bassett will accept role at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, First Deputy Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot to serve as Acting Health Commissioner

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that Dr. Mary T. Bassett will step down as Health Commissioner at the end of August and will be succeeded by First Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, who will serve as Acting Health Commissioner.

Dr. Bassett will become director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, and will be appointed the François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights in the department of Social and Behavioral Science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

Dr. Barbot will assume the role of Acting Health Commissioner on Sept. 1. A native New Yorker, Dr. Barbot has served as First Deputy Health Commissioner since early 2014. In this role, she has led the agency’s blueprint for achieving health equity, Take Care New York 2020, and has led the agency’s efforts to bridge the gap between public health and health care delivery. She also oversees the Department's budget, contracting and emergency preparedness divisions, and leads the group responsible for agency performance measurement and policy development. 

Under Dr. Bassett, the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene refocused its efforts to tackle issues of health inequity in New York’s most under-served neighborhoods.

“Dr. Bassett brought equity to the forefront of public health in New York City,” said Mayor de Blasio. “She led the push to bring health centers to underserved neighborhoods and helped ensure New Yorkers struggling with opioid addiction received the care they needed. Her approach to public health is helping make New York City a better, fairer and more just city.”

Dr. Bassett first served in the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene from 2002 to 2009, as Deputy Commissioner of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She was appointed Commissioner in January 2014. 

As Commissioner, she oversaw the City’s public health response to several disease emergencies, including Ebola, Legionnaires, Zika and leptospirosis. She also played key roles in the design and execution of major City plans, including ThriveNYC, HealingNYC and NYC End the Epidemic, and oversaw the development of a comprehensive legislative package to further curtail tobacco use. 

Dr. Bassett shifted the focus of the Health Department to health equity. She created the Center for Health Equity, as well as the Neighborhood Health Action Centers. These centers are housed in under-utilized Department of Health buildings and serve as resource centers that offer health and social services to communities in need, with the goal of increasing services to help reduce disparities in chronic conditions and premature mortality. Dr. Bassett also started Race to Justice, an effort to re-train the Health Department in implicit bias, which eventually expanded to other City agencies.

“Mary has been an exceptional partner in bringing the vision of ThriveNYC to life. She has brought a deep understanding of the significant health disparities in communities of color, which has led to significant programs and initiatives that make our City safer and healthier,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “Harvard is gaining a truly compassionate, whip smart public health expert and we wish her the very best.”

“As City Council Health Chair, I had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Bassett in key health initiatives and legislation so I saw firsthand her depth of knowledge and commitment to making this city a better place,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “It was an honor to see someone with so much expertise in health and medicine up close in action, and I learned a lot in that time. I know she will do great work at Harvard University and I look forward to working with First Deputy Commissioner Barbot on the city’s health concerns.”

“It’s been an honor to work with Mary. Her hard work and vision to create a city where race, ethnicity and ZIP codes do not determine people’s health outcomes will have a lasting impact on the way we carry out our public health policies,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “I wish her much success at the Harvard Center for Health and Human Rights, and thank her wholeheartedly for her leadership, passionate commitment to health equity, and the legacy of professional excellence she leaves at the Health Department.”

“I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for giving me the opportunity and the honor of leading the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene over the last four and a half years. With unflagging support from the Mayor and Deputy Mayors Barrios-Paoli and Dr. Palacio, we have confronted Ebola and Legionnaires disease, strengthened our City's tobacco laws, and addressed the ongoing opioid epidemic,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We have made family and child heath a priority, helped enroll tens of thousands of New Yorkers in health care, and reduced HIV infections to record lows. For the first time, we have made improving mental health a real priority, thanks to the incredible vision and effort of First Lady Chirlane McCray. Most importantly, we have infused all of this work with an unwavering focus on racial equity and social justice, creating a legacy that will improve our City's health in the years to come. I thank the outstanding and dedicated people who make our Health Department the best public health agency anywhere. And I thank Dr. Oxiris Barbot, who has been a great partner and will be a superb leader of the Department.”

“I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for giving me the opportunity to serve as Acting Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. It has been a privilege to work alongside Commissioner Bassett, an inspirational leader whose contributions to public health and racial equity will be felt in this Department and this City for many years,” said First Deputy Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “I look forward to continuing the great work done every day by our incredible senior leadership team and more than 6,000 dedicated, talented and creative Health Department employees to improve the lives of all New Yorkers.”

A graduate of Yale University, Dr. Barbot received her medical degree from New Jersey Medical School, and she completed her pediatrics training at DC Children’s Hospital. She served as Baltimore’s Health Commissioner from 2010 to 2014. She previously worked for the Health Department from 2003 to 2010, as the Medical Director for the Office of School Health.

“Dr. Mary Bassett has been a shining star in a long tradition of outstanding NYC health commissioners,” said Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee. “She's an outspoken and articulate advocate for public health and overcoming inequality in health care.”

“I thank Dr. Bassett for her commitment to our city,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “She has been a truly exemplary public servant. It is my sincere desire that our next DOHMH commissioner builds on her work and makes deeper progress in advancing public health, particularly in embracing plant-based nutrition and other evidence-based approaches to improving wellness and combating historic inequities that put our children and families at risk.”

"Congratulations to Dr. Bassett on her exciting new endeavor. I look forward to continue working with Dr. Barbot on the unique health needs of the communities I represent here in Brooklyn," said State Senator Roxanne Persaud.

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