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Former New York City health commissioner tapped to lead state health department

Former New York City health commissioner tapped to lead state health department

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Gov. Kathy Hochul at Power Project (copy)

Gov. Kathy Hochul has appointed Dr. Mary Bassett as commissioner of the New York Department of Health, replacing Dr. Howard Zucker, who announced his resignation last week.

ALBANY – Dr. Mary Bassett, a former New York City health commissioner, has been named to lead the state’s sprawling health department that has regulatory oversight over hospitals and nursing homes and runs everything from the Medicaid program to pandemic responses.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday confirmed that Bassett was the choice to replace Dr. Howard Zucker, who ran the state’s Covid-19 response efforts for more than a year and came under criticism for some of the decisions he made.

Bassett will start Dec. 1. Her appointment is subject to state Senate confirmation, which is expected given statements in her favor for the better part of a week now by Democrats who run the chamber.

"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 Wednesday morning in a statement.

Hochul called Bassett “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."

In her own statement, Bassett said the pandemic highlighted 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,’’ she said.

Bassett comes to the job from Harvard University’s Practice of Health and Human Rights division in the department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Until 2018, she was the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Bassett grew up in New York City and has her medical degree from Columbia University.

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