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New York City Mayor-Elect Eric Adams Appoints Indian American Dr. Ashwin Vasan as Health Commissioner

New York City Mayor-Elect Eric Adams Appoints Indian American Dr. Ashwin Vasan as Health Commissioner

  • Current head Dave Chokshi to continue till March when he takes over. Vasan will serve as Senior Advisor for Public Health in the interim.

New York City will have a new health commissioner this spring, mayor-elect Eric Adams announced on Dec. 22. Dr. Ashwin Vasan, 41, a practicing physician, academic, and public servant, will become the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner in March and will serve as Senior Advisor for Public Health in the interim. 

Until then, the current health commissioner, Dave Chokshi will continue to serve, during another coronavirus surge, “to 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,” Adams said. 

“We are at a critical moment in our fight against COVID-19,” he added. “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.”

Chokshi took to Twitter to thank Adams. “Thank you, Mayor-Elect Adams, for the chance to continue serving the people of New York City,” he tweeted. “I feel a deep sense of duty to ensure we get through the tough winter ahead.”

“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,” Vasan said in a statement. “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.”

Adams said that along with Chokshi and Vasan, he will introduce a “comprehensive plan” for his pandemic response in the next weekThe New York Times reported that Vasan and Chokshi said that “they intended to work together to safeguard the city despite an alarming rise in cases.” Vasan told the Times that although the omicron variant “is spreading faster than any of us really imagined,” they are prepared, and “our city’s response will continue to focus on vaccinations and testing and strategies to keep people out of the hospital, to keep people from severe outcomes and from death.”

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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. Since his appointment in 2019, he has grown Fountain House “from a direct service provider in NYC to a national leader in mental health,” according to his profile on the nonprofit’s website. “Under Vasan’s leadership, Fountain House’s work has advanced at the intersection of health, mental illness, homelessness, criminal justice and social welfare for marginalized communities by centering the voices of people with lived experience,” the profile added. 

He is also an Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons.

He has previously worked at Partners In Health and at the World Health Organization to increase access to HIV/AIDS treatment. He then led the multi-country health systems implementation and research program ARCHeS, based at Columbia Mailman. He was also founding executive director of the Health Access Equity Unit at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where he built the first municipal health department program focused on the intersection of health, clinical systems, and social welfare of marginalized populations.

He 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.

(Top photo, ABC7 New York screen grab)

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