Mayor-elect Adams selects new NYC health commissioner, will start in spring 2022

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Wednesday, December 22, 2021
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NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Mayor-elect Eric Adams announced that in the spring, the city will have a new health commissioner.

Dr. Ashwin Vasan will become the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner in March and will serve as Senior Advisor for Public Health in the interim.

Dr. Dave Chokshi will continue to serve as Health Commissioner through March 15 of 2022.

"We are at a critical moment in our fight against COVID-19," he said. "The virus is a formidable opponent, and our city's response to it must be smart and strong. For the next three months as we get through this surge, Dr. Chokshi will continue the excellent work he is doing now to increase testing capacity, promote vaccinations and boosters, and stop the spread of this virus."

Adams said the appointments will ensure continuity and a seamless transition of leadership as New York City continues to combat the surge in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant.

"In March, we will welcome Dr. Vasan to lead DOHMH," Adams said. "Dr. Vasan brings 20 years of expertise and experience working in public health that will ensure New Yorkers are well-equipped to continue the fight against COVID-19. After Dr. Vasan assumes the role, we will build on the progress we have made, ensuring that we continue our fight against the pandemic while delivering on my public health priorities, from boosting mental health services to promoting healthy food in City facilities. My vow to New Yorkers is simple: Under my leadership, we will make this city safer, healthier, and a better place to raise healthy children and families."

Dr. Chokshi also commented on the upcoming changes.

"Serving as New York City's Health Commissioner has been a privilege of a lifetime, and I'm grateful for the opportunity," he said. "I feel a deep sense of duty and care for our city - and I'm committed to our city's COVID response, as I have been for the past two years. New York City can count on me to see us through another winter."

Dr. Vasan meantime, said he was grateful for the appointment to serve the city.

"I am deeply honored and humbled to join Mayor-elect Adams' administration to help New Yorkers fight back against COVID-19, and I am grateful to Dr. Chokshi for his tireless work on behalf of our city," he said. "Make no mistake: we will stop the spread of this virus. We will also deliver on the mayor-elect's public health priorities by fixing our broken mental health system and ensuring equitable access to clean air, clean water, healthy food, and affordable healthcare."

Dr. Vasan is President and CEO of Fountain House, a national nonprofit that aims to improve health, increase opportunity, and reduce social and economic isolation for people with serious mental illness. Dr. Vasan has grown Fountain House from a direct service provider in NYC to a national leader in mental health. A practicing physician, academic, and public servant, Dr. Vasan holds concurrent positions as an Assistant Professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons.

Dr. Vasan previously worked at Partners In Health and at the World Health Organization to increase access to HIV/AIDS treatment. He then helped lead the multi-country health systems implementation and research program ARCHeS, based at Columbia Mailman. Vasan was also founding Executive Director / Agency Deputy Medical Director of the Health Access Equity Unit at DOHMH, which grew into a bureau focused on the health, clinical systems, and social welfare of those in the criminal legal system. Dr. Vasan holds a Master of Science degree in Epidemiology from Harvard, his MD from the University of Michigan, and his Ph.D. in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

In the next week, Adams, Dr. Chokshi and Dr. Vasan will roll out a comprehensive plan they say will ensure that city, state, and federal resources are properly allocated to keep New York City residents safe from COVID-19.

ALSO READ | Omicron variant symptoms: what to know even if you are vaccinated

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