Medical groups, public health organizations and a key state Senate lawmaker on Wednesday applauded Governor Kathy Hochul’s appointment of Mary Bassett to become the next Health Department commissioner.
Bassett’s appointment, effective December 1, comes amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and continued uncertainty created by the public health crisis. It also picks up on what has long been considered a benchmark public health agency that over the past year has come under scrutiny for its nursing home and long-term policies, as well. as preferential COVID testing reports at the start of the pandemic under the leadership of outgoing commissioner Howard Zucker.
Bassett’s selection is another key addition to Hochul’s new administration just over a month after the new governor was sworn in.
Senate Health Committee Chairman Gustavo Rivera, a leading Zucker critic in Albany, said Bassett’s choice is a sign that the new Hochul administration wants to bring the Department of Health “back to its core mission.”
“Dr. Bassett, who will be the first African American to lead the agency, has had an exemplary career focused on delivering forward-thinking, compassionate and effective public health initiatives and programs focused on reducing harm. deeply rooted health disparities, âsaid Rivera. . âHis long-standing dedication to addressing the impacts of disparities is exactly the foundation upon which our state must build, especially as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been undeniably vicious in communities. color among the other health crises facing our state. “
Bassett, who left Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to work at Harvard, also gained support from local public health officials in New York City. Hochul in recent weeks has indicated that she wants local officials to play a bigger role in pandemic-related efforts, pledging to reverse what she called a top-down approach from the former Cuomo administration.
âAs we move into the next budget and legislative session, we look forward to working with Dr Bassett to develop cohesive and integrated public health strategies and to ensure that the efforts of local and state public health personnel are resourced. necessary, âsaid Dr. Indu Gupta, president of the New York State Association of County Health Officials.
And Dr. Joseph Sellers, president of the New York State Medical Society, also praised the selection, calling Bassett a good choice.
âWe are confident that Dr. Bassett is the right person at the right time to accompany New York State through the end of the COVID-19 pandemic,â Sellers said, âand that his wealth of knowledge and expertise ‘experience in public health will guide New Yorkers through future public health challenges. ”