What to Know
- New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot has resigned from her position.
- In her resignation letter, obtained by News 4 Tuesday, Barbot praises the city's Health Department, while saying it was an honor to serve in her position.
- Although she did not provide a clear reason for her resignation in her letter, Barbot faced criticism during the height of the pandemic a couple of months ago when police unions demanded she resign or be fired after she reportedly gave an emphatic rejection when the NYPD sought more face masks for officers.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot has resigned from her position.
In her resignation letter, obtained by News 4 Tuesday, Barbot praises the city's Health Department, while saying it was an honor to serve in her position and that the department will continue to dedicate itself to protecting "the health of all New Yorkers during this unprecedented public health emergency. The moment demands it without distractions."
"My commitment to this city and to public health is unwavering. I am proud of the accomplishments we have achieved as an agency over the past several years including using a racial equity lens to center communities at the heart of what we do, leveraging our public health data for policy and action in addressing structural inequities and bridging public health and health care delivery so that all of our communities have an equitable opportunity to be healthy and flourish," Barbot's resignation letter reads in part.
"It has been an honor and privilege to serve at the helm of an agency with its long and distinguished history in promoting and protecting New Yorkers health through ordinary times and during some of the most challenging moments in our city's history. I am proud that as a woman of color raised in public housing in this city, I always put public health, racial equity and the well-being of the city I love first. That ethos continues within the agency and I have every confidence that you will continue to serve every day with dignity, integrity and courage for the benefit of all New Yorkers," her letter went on to say.
Within less than an hour after her resignation became public, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Dr. Dave A. Chokshi as Commissioner of the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene — a sign that perhaps Barbot's decision didn't come as a total surprise to the mayor.
Dr. Chokshi has served at the highest level of local, state, and federal health agencies, including NYC Health + Hospitals, where he was in senior leadership roles over the past six years. As Chief Population Health Officer, Dr. Chokshi’s team transformed healthcare delivery for over one million New Yorkers. Most recently, he served as a key leader in the City’s COVID-19 response.
“Dr. Chokshi has spent his career fighting for those too often left behind,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Never has that been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic, where he has helped lead our City’s public health system under unprecedented challenges. I know he’s ready to lead the charge forward in our fight for a fairer and healthier city for all.”
Council member Mark Levine issued a statement via his Twitter shortly after the news of Barbot's departure.
Levine called Barbot's resignation "a grave blow to the fight for public health here in NYC."
Although she did not provide a clear reason for her resignation in her letter, Barbot faced criticism during the height of the pandemic a few months ago when police unions demanded she resign or be fired after she reportedly gave an emphatic rejection when the NYPD sought more face masks for officers. Barbot issued an apology to the NYPD in May following the reports.
In late March, Dr. Oxiris Barbot had a phone call with Chief of Department Terence Monahan regarding additional PPE for police, as the department sought 500,000 masks. Barbot insisted only 50,000 would be made available, and said flatly “I don’t give two rats’ a--es about your cops,” the New York Post first reported. Two officials familiar with the situation confirmed to NBC New York that Barbot made the comments.
Barbot, in her statement , acknowledged a mid-March "argument" with a police official.
"I apologized to that police official then and today, I apologize to the NYPD for leaving any impression whatsoever that I don’t have utmost respect for our police department, which plays a critical role on the frontlines each and every day to keep our city safe.”
The NYC Health Department previously confirmed a "heated exchange," but said there was a "good working relationship" between Barbot and Monahan, and added that the commissioner apologized for her comments. A source with the city also told NBC New York at that time that Barbot, who was appointed to the position in 2018, had apologized.
Mayor Bill De Blasio subsequently said he looked forward to Barbot "doing good and important work," although she had been noticeably absent from the mayor's daily public briefings for days following the controversy.
"We're going to move forward together," the mayor previously said, adding he had "a lot of respect for Barbot."
More recently, there had been a bit of a rift between Barbot and de Blasio when the mayor decided to take the unusual step of putting the city's Health and Hospital system in charge of the test and trace program, rather than the Health Department.
Prior to her role as commissioner, Barbot served as the first deputy commissioner and oversaw development and implementation of agency priorities, including Take Care New York 2020 (#TCNY2020), which focused on addressing the social determinants of health and engaging communities on the issues of health equity.
According to her biography on the city's website, Barbot has over 25 years of experience in advancing health equity and providing healthcare in urban communities. She previously served as commissioner of health for Baltimore City, where she led the development of Healthy Baltimore 2015, a health policy program focused on improving health outcomes by focusing on areas where the largest impact could be made to raise the quality of life. She also served as medical director of the Office of School Health at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the NYC Department of Education.
Prior to working in New York, Dr. Barbot was the chief of pediatrics and community medicine at Unity Health Care, Inc., a health center in Washington, DC.