Apr. 24 2019

Oxiris Barbot, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, has joined the Columbia Mailman School Board of Overseers, continuing a longstanding and productive relationship between the School and the City.

Barbot has over 25 years of experience in advancing health equity and providing healthcare in urban communities. Recently, she oversaw the development and implementation of the Department of Health’s Take Care New York 2020, a data-driven agenda focused on addressing the social determinants of health and engaging communities on the issues of health equity.

Previously, she served as commissioner of health for Baltimore, where she led the development of policies to improve health outcomes in areas where the largest impact could be made to raise the quality of life. Barbot also served as medical director of the Office of School Health at the New York City Department of Health and Department of Education. Before working in New York, she was the chief of pediatrics and community medicine at Unity Health Care, Inc., a federally qualified health center in Washington, D.C.

“It is a distinct honor to welcome Commissioner Barbot to our Board of Overseers,” says Dean Linda P. Fried. “The City and School have a long history of working together to translate science to policy to improve the health of all New Yorkers, particularly for our most vulnerable residents.”  

The appointment of Commissioner Barbot is in keeping with a history of collaboration between the School and the City of New York. Haven Emerson, the School’s first dean, came to Columbia after serving as the City’s Commissioner of Health. There he undertook the city’s first large-scale analysis of births and deaths by age, sex, and cause of death. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, research conducted by the School’s faculty at the request of the City helped identify the most pressing issues with the public hospital system; these recommendations were later implemented by Ray Trussell, who after serving as the School’s Dean became the City’s Commissioner of Hospitals. In the 1990s, Commissioner Barbot’s predecessor, Mary Bassett, served as the director of the School’s Harlem Health Promotion Center.

The enduring connections between the City and the School allowed for longitudinal studies on some of the most significant issues facing New Yorkers. As one example, Epidemiology Professor Steven Stellman served as the founding research director of the World Trade Center Health Registry, the largest registry in U.S. history to monitor the health effects of a disaster.