Ashwin Vasan, president of mental-health nonprofit Fountain House and co-chair of the Adams transition team’s health committee, will take over on March 15 as health commissioner
New York, NY
New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams has announced the appointment of five deputy mayors, including Indian American attorney Meera Joshi. “For us to ensure that NYC recovers quickly while addressing the inequalities that plagued us well before COVID-19 struck, we must have top leadership that can both deliver for and is representative of New Yorkers. I’m proud to introduce 5 history-making Deputy Mayors today,” Adams tweeted.
As Deputy Mayor for Operations, Joshi will ensure that New York City is able to respond in real time to meet and exceed the needs of every community and be a model of excellence for all urban centers, noted Adams.
Joshi was the acting administrator since January for the Federal Motor Carrier and Safety Administration. Joshi is an attorney with over 16 years of experience leading government oversight agencies. She was chair and CEO of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, the nation’s largest for-hire transportation regulator where she spearheaded novel Vision Zero campaigns using data tools to keep high risk drivers and unsafe vehicles off the road, her bio notes.
Prior to transportation regulation, Joshi was the inspector general for New York City’s Department of Corrections, responsible for investigation of corruption and criminality at all levels of New York City’s jail operations and the first deputy executive director of New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, leading investigations of police misconduct, her bio adds.
In another development, Adams will keep Dave Chokshi as New York City’s chief health official through March, a sign the mayor-elect seeks to maintain continuity with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pandemic response against a backdrop of surging Covid cases.
Ashwin Vasan, president of mental-health nonprofit Fountain House and co-chair of the Adams transition team’s health committee, will take over on March 15 as health commissioner. In the interim, Vasan will serve as a senior public health adviser.
“We are at a critical moment in our fight against Covid-19,” Adams said in a statement. “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.”
Chokshi, who has led the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene since August 2020, will continue to manage the city’s health system and vaccine campaign when the new administration takes over Jan. 1.
He took over the city’s health commissioner in the middle of the pandemic, following the resignation of Oxiris Barbot, who left after disagreements with de Blasio over his Covid response. Before that, Chokshi served as the Chief Population Health Officer at New York City’s Health + Hospitals.
Now, Chokshi will have to help Adams face the fast-spreading omicron variant, a rapid spike in Covid cases and a run-on testing site that has spawned long lines for the screening.
The city’s public hospitals also said on Wednesday that the system would begin banning most visitors amid the Covid spike, spurred by a recent outbreak in one of the hospitals. Women in labor, children, and hospice patients will still be able to receive visitors.
Adams has said he’ll evaluate the private-sector mandate and other Covid strategies once the new year starts. On Sunday, the mayor-elect said there will be “continuity” between his and de Blasio’s administrations so “there is no confusion or gap in our Covid response” when Adams takes office.
The mayor-elect has pledged to create a new color-coded warning system to alert New Yorkers to the Covid threat level. He has said he’d be open to mandating vaccines for schoolchildren and requiring boosters for New Yorkers to enter venues if his health advisers recommend the moves.
Throughout Adams’s mayoral campaign and on his transition website, Adams highlighted Vasan and Fountain House as a model for how to treat people experiencing mental illness.
A practicing physician, Vasan also serves as an assistant professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons. He holds a Master of Science degree in Epidemiology from Harvard, a medical degree from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.