Indian American appointed as senior advisor for Boston’s Mayor-elect


An Indian American doctor from Massachusetts has been appointed as the new cabinet-level senior advisor for Boston’s Mayor-elect Michelle Wu.

Dr. Monica Bharel, former commissioner of the Department of Public Health, who helped steer Massachusetts through the COVID-19 pandemic, will now lead the city’s response to the crisis in the area around known as Mass and Cass.

Dr. Bharel will address the intersecting crises of a substance use disorder, mental health, public safety and homelessness.

“The humanitarian crisis at Mass and Cass demands urgent, bold solutions that create genuine pathways to recovery and stability for our most vulnerable residents — and we need the right team to get it done,” Wu said.

“This ongoing crisis of substance use disorder, mental health issues, and homelessness requires a coordinated response from the government, service providers, and our communities,” Bharel said.

Bharel, who served the Department of Public Health for six years, stepped down in June after overseeing the department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic including data analysis, guidance development, mitigation strategies and the vaccine equity initiative. Earlier, she served as the Chief Medical Officer of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, the largest nonprofit health care organization for homeless individuals in the US.

She has also participated on the Massachusetts Medicaid payment reform policy committee and Primary Care Payment Reform Initiative operations committee.

Additionally, she served on the National Quality Forum expert panel on Risk Adjustment for Socioeconomic Status. Dr. Bharel has served on the faculty of Boston University Medical School, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health.

Bharel is one of three cabinet appointments being made.

Wu elevated Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, and reappointed Sheila A. Dillon, as the city’s chief of housing and director of the Department of Neighborhood Development.