An Indian American doctor, Dr Dave Chokshi, has been appointed New York City’s health commissioner to lead the next phase of city’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
When appointing him, Mayor Bill de Blasio called him a “leader and a visionary” who was “ready to fight this fight” against the pandemic.
Chokshi is a former White House Fellow when Barak Obama was the president under the programme that brings promising young graduates to work in the president’s office. He was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and trained at Harvard Medical School.
The new health commission is the former chief population health officer at the city’s Health + Hospitals Corporation, said to be the largest health network in the US.
Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy praised Chokshi’s appointment.
“For the last 15 years, I have seen Dr Chokshi touch the lives of patients and communities in profound ways as a physician and public health leader,” he said. “He is of a rare breed of leaders who combine brilliance and strong judgement with humility and compassion.”
Chokshi, who grew up in Louisiana State, recalled his father’s decades-long struggle with diabetes, which made him realise that heath was linked to opportunity.
“Opportunity is what propelled my grandfathers to move from small villages in Gujarat, India, to Mumbai, the New York City of India two generations ago. My father was the first in his family to immigrate to the United States,” he said.
Although he will be the top health official for the city of about 8.5 million people, Chokshi insisted he would continue to see patients at his practice which sees many immigrant patients.
Meanwhile, New York City girds itself against the risk of a second flare up and the oncoming flu season.
Once the epicentre of the pandemic, New York City saw more than 200,000 cases and 23,000 deaths. As it heals, it is now seeing under 100 daily cases this month. But more businesses and offices, and schools, are set to start soon, requiring special health measures under close monitoring.
In the city’s highly politicised environment, the previous health commissioner, Oxiris Barbot, resigned recently, expressing “deep disappointment” with Mayor de Blasio, who had sidelined her and her health department. They have both accused of mishandling the initial response to the pandemic by not quickly responding to it.