NY State Health Commissioner Resigns to Return to Harvard – KGET 17

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – New York State’s health commissioner will resign Jan. 1 after 13 months on the job to return to Harvard University’s TH Chan School of Public Health.

Mary Bassett said in a statement Friday that she is “now leaving so that the next commissioner can have the opportunity to lead this great department for a full 4-year term under Governor Hochul.”

“This was a very difficult decision,” Bassett said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, won her first full term in the November election, taking office in 2021 following the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Hochul said in a statement that Bassett led the Department of Health during “one of the most challenging public health eras of our lifetimes,” fighting the coronavirus, smallpox and polio. She thanked Bassett for his service.

Mpox is a virus that was previously known as monkey pox because it was first seen in research monkeys. The World Health Organization changed the name to mpox last month, saying the original name could be interpreted as stigmatizing and racist.

Bassett, a former New York City health commissioner, became state health commissioner on Dec. 1, 2021, taking over for Howard Zucker.

Zucker resigned after facing backlash over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including the Cuomo administration’s decision to downplay the number of people dying from COVID-19, particularly in nursing homes.

Prior to becoming state health commissioner, Bassett worked at Harvard, where she was director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and a professor at the TH Chan School of Public Health.

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