Photo Courtesy of Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor de Blasio said that Dr. Bassett’s “approach to public health is helping make New York City a better, fairer, and more just city.”
By Forum Staff
Mary Bassett, M.D. will step down as City Health commissioner at the end of August to take a prestigious faculty position at Harvard University, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday.
Bassett will be succeeded by First Deputy Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, M.D., who will serve as acting Health commissioner.
“Dr. Bassett brought equity to the forefront of public health in New York City,” de Blasio said. “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.”
Bassett is set to 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.
According to the administration, 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.
“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,” Bassett said. “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.”