- The former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health oversaw the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Monica Bharel, the former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, has been appointed to cabinet-level position by Boston mayor-elect Michelle Wu. Over the next six months, the Indian American will lead the city’s response to the humanitarian crisis at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, popularly known as Mass & Cass. Wu said Bharel will address “the intersecting crises of substance use disorder, mental health, public safety and homelessness.”
In a statement after her appointment, Bharel said the “ongoing crisis of substance use disorder, mental health issues and homelessness requires a coordinated response from government, service providers and our communities.”
Bharel, who served the Department of Public Health for six years, stepped down in June. She oversaw the department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic including data analysis, guidance development, mitigation strategies and the vaccine equity initiative. after overseeing the.
A primary care physician with more than 20 years of clinical experience, she was appointed to the commission by Gov. Charlie Baker in February 2015. Since then she has overseen the state’s response to several public health crises, including the opioid epidemic, vaping-associated lung disease, and mosquito-borne illnesses like eastern equine encephalitis.
Before her appointment to the commission, she served as the Chief Medical Officer of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, the largest nonprofit health care organization for homeless individuals in the country. The nonprofit program is devoted to providing medical care to one of the city’s most vulnerable populations and under her leadership, the organization provided health care to over 12,500 homeless men, women and children in the greater Boston area at over 70 different sites.
In the public service sector, Bharel was a gubernatorial appointment to the Behavioral Health and Primary Care Integration Task Force under the Massachusetts health care payment reform initiative. She has also participated on the Massachusetts Medicaid payment reform policy committee and Primary Care Payment Reform Initiative operations committee. Additionally, she served on the National Quality Forum expert panel on Risk Adjustment for Socioeconomic Status.
Additionally, she has served on the faculty of Boston University Medical School, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health. She was previously at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Medical Center.
She received her Master of Public Health degree through the Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy, with a concentration in health care policy and management in 2012. She received her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine in 1994 and in 1998 completed a residency and chief residency in internal medicine at Boston City Hospital/Boston Medical Center.