ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul tapped Mary Bassett to serve as the state’s next health commissioner, the governor’s office announced Wednesday.
Bassett, New York City’s former health commissioner, will take over from outgoing Cuomo appointee Dr. Howard Zucker — who announced his resignation last week — confirming a Post report revealing she was a finalist in Hochul’s search to fill the top position.
The governor has said Zucker will stay on in his current role to help during the transition period, as Bassett’s appointment takes effect Dec. 1.
“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 in a statement.
“I am humbled and honored to return to my home state of New York to lead the Department of Health at this pivotal time,” Bassett added.
“The pandemic underscored 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. I look forward to working toward this with Governor Hochul and the team at the Department of Health.”
Bassett, 68, currently works at Harvard University as director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, as well as the FXB professor of the practice of health and human rights at the Harvard School of Public Health.
She worked under Mayor Bill de Blasio between 2014 and 2018 as the commissioner of the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
But she resigned in 2018 after her agency came under fire for its handling of reports that found elevated blood lead levels in kids living in public housing.
At the time, Bassett said the controversy had nothing to do with her decision to leave.
Bassett’s appointment comes at a time when the agency is plagued by vacancies and is in the middle of soliciting contract bids from outside consultant companies to help “restructure” the department.
At least 60 employees left their jobs at the DOH between January and August, according to a Post analysis.
She would become the state’s first black health commissioner and third appointed female health commissioner after Barbara DeBuono and Antonia Novello, who served under former Gov. George Pataki.