NYC gets another Indian American health commoner under Mayor-elect Eric Adams


New York City will be getting another Indian American health commissioner after Dr. Dave Chokshi, its current health commissioner announced on Wednesday, December 22, that he will be stepping down.

Dr. Chokshi will be replaced by Dr. Ashwin Vasan, but will remain in the position until Mayor-elect Eric Adams takes his office in March, for a smooth transition.

Currently, Dr. Vasan is the president and CEO of Fountain House, a nationwide nonprofit that helps people will mental illness.

He will serve as the city’s senior advisor for public health until he takes over the Department of Health.

Despite leaving, Chokshi stated that he remains ‘committed as both a doctor and public servant’ and will be guiding his replacement through a ‘smooth transition.’

‘I feel a sense of duty to ensure we get through the tough winter ahead,’ he wrote on Twitter.

The outgoing health commissioner also thanked Adams for the ‘opportunity to serve’ and for the ‘chance to ensure a seamless transition.’

Adams said Chokshi will help get through the Omicron ‘surge’ throughout the next three months.

‘For the next three months as we get through this surge, Dr. Chokshi will continue the excellent work he is doing now to increase testing capacity, promote vaccinations and boosters, and stop the spread of this virus,’ he said.

Chokshi’s replacement has also vowed to focus on the fight against COVID-19, which has surged to a 10.2 percent positivity rate in the city as of Tuesday.

‘Make no mistake: we will stop the spread of this virus,’ Vasan tweeted on Wednesday.

“Dr. Vasan brings 20 years of expertise and experience working in public health that will ensure New Yorkers are well-equipped to continue the fight against COVID-19,” Adams said in a statement on his decision.

“After Dr. Vasan assumes the role, we will build on the progress we have made, ensuring that we continue our fight against the pandemic while delivering on my public health priorities, from boosting mental health services to promoting healthy food in city facilities.”

‘I look forward to partnering with Dr. Chokshi as Senior Advisor for Public Health as we fight the immediate surge of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.’

Adams vowed under his and Vasan’s leadership ‘we will make this city safer, healthier, and a better place to raise healthy children and families.’

The incoming health commissioner also promised to fix the ‘broken mental health system’ and ensured an ‘equitable access to clean air, clean water, healthy food, and affordable healthcare.’

He also announced that Fountain House will have ‘an important role to play in the public health of our city, our nation, and our world.’

In 2019, he became the head of Fountain House, a decades-old clubhouse for people with mental illness based in Midtown Manhattan, with the goal of creating a national network of these facilities.

In panel discussions hosted by the organization this year, he has spoken about how the city should reform its approach to homelessness and policing to better serve New Yorkers with mental health issues.

Vasan was the founding executive director of the Health Access Equity Unit of the city’s health department from 2016 to 2019. In that role he helped develop a network of health care resources for people re-entering the community after being incarcerated.

He previously worked with Partners In Health and the World Health Organization to promote access to HIV/AIDS treatment in other countries. He is also an assistant professor at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to join Mayor-Elect Adams’ administration to help New Yorkers fight back against COVID-19, and I am grateful to Dr. Chokshi for his tireless work on behalf of our city,” Vasan said in a statement.