Today, Mayor-elect Adams announced that Dr. Dave A. Chokshi will continue to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) through March 15 of 2022. Mayor-elect Adams also announced that Ashwin Vasan, M.D., PhD will then become DOHMH Commissioner in March and will serve as Senior Adviser for Public Health in the interim. The appointments will 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.
The Health Commissioner will serve as a key leader and advisor to Mayor Adams on all policies relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Tuesday, the City’s positivity rate stood at 10.2 percent. A recent report by the CDC found that Omicron now makes up 92 percent of sequenced cases in the New York and New Jersey region. As Omicron continues to drive up case rates, Mayor-elect Adams stressed the importance of a seamless transition that allows the City’s COVID response to remain effective.
“We are at a critical moment in our fight against COVID-19. 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,” said Mayor-elect Adams.
“In March, we will welcome Dr. Vasan to lead DOHMH. Dr. Vasan brings 20 years of expertise and experience working in public health that will ensure New Yorkers are well-equipped to continue the fight against COVID-19. After Dr. Vasan assumes the role, we will build on the progress we have made, ensuring that we continue our fight against the pandemic while delivering on my public health priorities, from boosting mental health services to promoting healthy food in City facilities. My vow to New Yorkers is simple: Under my leadership, we will make this city safer, healthier, and a better place to raise healthy children and families,” Adams said.
“Serving as New York City’s Health Commissioner has been a privilege of a lifetime, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I feel a deep sense of duty and care for our City — and I’m committed to our City’s COVID response, as I have been for the past two years. New York City can count on me to see us through another winter,” Commissioner Chokshi said.
“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. 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,” Dr. Vasan said.
Dr. Dave A. Chokshi has served as New York City’s 43rd Health Commissioner since August 2020. Prior to leading DOHMH, he was the inaugural Chief Population Health Officer at NYC Health + Hospitals. He continues to see patients at Bellevue Hospital, where he has been a primary care physician since 2014.
Ashwin Vasan, M.D., PhD 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. Dr. Vasan has grown Fountain House from a direct service provider in NYC to a national leader in mental health. A practicing physician, academic, and public servant, Dr. Vasan holds concurrent positions as an Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons.
Dr. Vasan previously worked at Partners In Health and at the World Health Organization to increase access to HIV/AIDS treatment. He then helped lead the multi-country health systems implementation and research program ARCHeS, based at Columbia Mailman. Vasan was also founding Executive Director / Agency Deputy Medical Director of the Health Access Equity Unit at DOHMH, which grew into a bureau focused on the health, clinical systems, and social welfare of those in the criminal legal system. Dr. Vasan holds a Master of Science degree in Epidemiology from Harvard, his MD from the University of Michigan, and his PhD in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
In the next week, Mayor-elect Adams, Commissioner Chokshi, and Dr. Vasan will roll out a comprehensive plan to ensure that City, State, and Federal resources are properly allocated to keep New York City residents safe from COVID-19.