De Blasio's New Health Commissioner Oversaw Anti-Smoking, Trans Fats, Calorie Efforts

Thursday, Jan 16, 2014  |  Updated 3:10 PM EDT
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NYC Mayor Names New Health Commissioner

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The deputy commissioner who helped orchestrate the most significant public health policies under Mayor Bloomberg has been chosen as Mayor de Blasio's new head of the Health Department.

During Bloomberg's 12-year term, he banned smoking in bars and restaurants, outlawed trans-fats in restaurant food and required chain eateries to post calorie information. He drew national attention for his campaigns, which were sometimes criticized as overbearing.

De Blasio announced Thursday that Dr. Mary Travis Bassett, who oversaw all those campaigns, will succeed Dr. Thomas Farley.

Bloomberg also sought unsuccessfully to ban large sugary drinks, an effort that ultimately failed in court.

She said at a City Hall news conference Thursday that she believed it was important for the Health Department to "engage the public" on policies that will affect their lives.

As deputy commissioner, Bassett also helped establish district health offices in Harlem, the South Bronx and parts of Brooklyn.

She "understands health care from the neighborhood up," de Blasio said.

Earlier in her career, Bassett spent 17 years in Zimbabwe on the medical faculty at University of Zimbabwe. She grew up in New York City.

--Melissa Russo contributed to this story

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