On October 25, 2016, public health’s most prestigious honor, the Frank A. Calderone Prize, was presented to Dr. Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Dean Linda P. Fried of the Mailman School of Public Health presented the award at a morning ceremony at the Paley Center for Media in Midtown, and Francesca Calderone-Steichen made the opening remarks. In her more than 30 years of experience in government, hospitals, and non-profits, Health Commissioner Bassett has made a significant impact on public health both locally and around the world. As an activist and a scholar, Bassett bridged the divide between academic and applied public health, on disease prevention at Harlem Hospital and at the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Zimbabwe, and in support of health equity with the Rockefeller Foundation in South Africa. At the African Health Initiative and the domestic Child Abuse Prevention Program at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, she worked to strengthen health systems in Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia.
At the award ceremony, Health Commissioner Bassett delivered an original lecture entitled, “Public Health Meets the Problem of the Color Line,” where she underscored the importance of explicitly naming racism in advancing health equity work: "One of the most important things we can do to stand in solidarity is lend our voice to advocacy for racial justice, unto itself and fully cognizant of the many other struggles for justice in which the work for racial justice is entwined."