- The infectious diseases physician is the first Indian American to serve in the role.
Governor Ned Lamont has named Dr. Manisha Juthani to serve as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health. She is the first Indian American commissioner in the state’s history. An infectious diseases physician at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Juthani specializes in the diagnosis, management, and prevention of infections in older adults. Her most recent area of interest is at the interface of infectious diseases and palliative care, including the role of antibiotics at the end of life.
Juthani will begin at the Department of Public Health on Sept. 20, according to a press release issued by the governor’s office. She will succeed Dr. Deidre Gifford as head of the state’s public health agency. For the last 14 months, Gifford has been serving dual roles within the Lamont administration as interim commissioner and senior adviser to the governor for Health and Human Services.
“Dr. Juthani’s background in infectious diseases will be a tremendous benefit to the people of Connecticut as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen our vaccination efforts,” Lamont said in a press release. “When seeking candidates to serve in this role, Dr. Juthani came recommended by many top experts in this field, and I am thrilled to have her join our administration. I’m incredibly proud that Connecticut is among the leading states in vaccinating our residents, but as this pandemic continues, we need to implement sound policies that will keep the rates of transmission as low as possible.”
Juthani accepted Lamont’s nomination at a press conference on July 26. She was accompanied by her family, including her parents, “who came to America in 1970 as physicians from India,” reported The Hartford Courant. They sat in the front row of the press conference “as their daughter accepted Lamont’s nomination to be the first Indian-American commissioner,” of Connecticut, the report said.
“I am so honored to serve as the next Commissioner of @CTDPH,” Juthani tweeted. “Advocating for public health during this pandemic and beyond is the opportunity of a lifetime. I look forward to serving the citizens of CT.:
At the July 26 press conference, Juthani noted that when she first began dealing with Covid-19 patients last year, she “felt helpless,” as the “health care industry struggled to procure sufficient amounts of PPE,” as per a report in the Westchester & Fairfield Business Journals. She said her priorities will include closing the disparities among those who receive proper health care and ensuring health care equity. “We are not out of the woods,” Lamont noted about the virus. Westchester & Fairfield Business Journals said. “Our infection rate has gone up, over 2 percent, and hospitalizations are beginning to pop up a little bit.”
Although Juthani’s experience is primarily clinical and research-focused, she said she was drawn to the role of the commissioner “because it would allow her to advocate for the public health of Connecticut residents on a larger scale than what might be possible through academia,” the Hartford Courant reported.
As commissioner of the Department of Public Health, Jutahni will oversee an agency with nearly 700 employees and a budget of about $150 million in state funds.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, “Juthani has often been a voice for tighter restrictions and a slower reopening of the economy,” the Hartford Courant reported. Last November, she was among several local physicians urging Lamont to prohibit nonessential social gatherings. “The rapid increase in admissions and severity of illness that we are seeing here in the ICU and the wards is incredibly concerning,” read the Nov. 24 letter, as reported by the Hartford Courant. “Based on what we know about the epidemiology of COVID-19, we are confident that a decision to close indoor dining and gyms and ban all other unnecessary public gatherings would protect our citizens from this lethal disease, keep our hospitals and caregivers from becoming overwhelmed, and save lives,” the letter read.
Juthani got undergraduate training at the University of Pennsylvania, attended Cornell University Medical College, and completed residency training at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Campus. She was the chief resident at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She arrived at Yale School of Medicine in 2002 for infectious diseases fellowship training and joined the faculty full-time in 2006. She assumed the role of infectious diseases fellowship program director in 2012.