New York State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett, a longtime public servant who took over the agency last year, will resign effective Jan. 1, she said in a statement Friday afternoon.
“I am leaving now so the next commissioner can have the chance to lead this great department for a full 4-year term under the leadership of Gov. [Kathy] Hochul,” Bassett said, emphasizing the decision to leave was “difficult.”
Bassett was appointed in Sept. 2021 by Hochul after the resignation of then-Commissioner Howard Zucker, who was embroiled in scandal over his prominent leadership role during former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pandemic response and his handling of deaths in nursing homes. Cuomo himself resigned from office amid a litany of sexual harassment allegations. Hochul recently won her first full, four-year term as governor.
During Bassett’s tenure, she oversaw the revival and removal of COVID-19 requirements and was an early proponent of pivoting the state’s mpox vaccination strategy that helped stretch the supply. She also saw the state through this summer’s polio outbreak.
Bassett served as former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s health commissioner from 2014 to 2018 before stepping down to become the director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She said she’ll be returning to the school in January.
“I am grateful that the governor gave me the opportunity to serve as commissioner, and I know that the department and public health will be in good hands thanks to her leadership and the incredible talent and dedication of the staff,” her statement adds.
Nsikan Akpan contributed reporting. This story has been updated with additional information.