Health Commissioner Announces New Office of Public Health

Albany, N.Y. (November 15, 2007) - A new Office of Public Health has been created to bring the state Health Department's public health resources together under a single umbrella, Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., announced today.

"I am pleased to announce the next phase of development of the management team within the Department of Health," Commissioner Daines said. "This phase strengthens and improves coordination among our public health programs and ensures incorporation of public health input and principles into all Department programs. This is in line with the Governor's plan to overhaul health care and public health services in the state. I am fortunate to work with these terrifically talented people."

Dr. Daines has appointed Guthrie Birkhead, M.D., as Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Public Health. Dr. Birkhead has served as director of both the Center for Community Health and the AIDS Institute. Dr. Birkhead will be the Department of Health's (DOH) chief public health physician and will oversee and coordinate the activities of the department's four public health centers and two public health offices:

  • AIDS Institute,
  • Center for Community Health,
  • Center for Environmental Health,
  • Wadsworth Laboratories,
  • Office of Public Health Practice, and
  • Office of Health Emergency Preparedness.

Dr. Birkhead is a graduate of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Epidemic Intelligence Service and Preventive Medicine Residency programs, is board certified in internal medicine and preventive medicine, and has a master's degree in public health. He also is an associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University at Albany, and has been with DOH since 1988.

Phyllis Silver will serve as Deputy Director of the Office of Public Health. She has served in progressively responsible capacities in the executive branch of state government since 1978 and has been with DOH for 20 years.

Before coming to New York, Ms. Silver served in the Massachusetts Department of Health. Earlier, she worked as a clinical speech and language pathologist, directed a hospital Speech, Language and Audiology Department, and created home-visiting early childhood programs for infants and toddlers born with or at risk of disabilities.

Center for Community Health

Ellen Anderson, M.S., will serve as Director of the Center for Community Health, overseeing its $1.2 billion in programs covering community-based services. The center offers programs in nutrition, cancer prevention, cardiovascular health, early intervention to address childhood developmental delays, bioterrorism readiness, women's health, and chronic disease prevention and screening.

Ms. Anderson has been with DOH since 1985 and has served in the programs concerning health care financing, home health care services, long-term care services and AIDS. As Director of the Office of Managed Care in the mid-1990s, Ms. Anderson directed the implementation of the statewide Medicaid managed care program. Before she joined DOH, Ms. Anderson worked as a planner for the Coordinated Care Management Corporation in Erie County, and in several long-term care facilities.

Barbara Devore will serve as Deputy Director of the Center for Community Health. Since joining DOH in 1990, Ms. Devore has taken on progressively responsible positions in the AIDS Institute, and most recently served as Executive Deputy Director, with responsibility for guiding DOH's response to the HIV epidemic. She also was Director of the Independent Living Centers in the state Education Department, where she helped grassroots organizations establish services to help people with disabilities live independently in their communities.

AIDS Institute

Humberto Cruz is the new Director of the AIDS Institute, after 17 years in progressively responsible positions. As an individual living with AIDS and as a public health professional, Mr. Cruz is personally and professionally committed to achieving the AIDS Institute's goals. As an executive committee member of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, he has deliberated HIV/AIDS policy at the national level, most recently in support of New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS in the context of Ryan White legislative reauthorization.

He understands the perspectives of persons living with the virus, the providers who care for them, and state officials who must develop the policies and programs that guide service provision.

Center for Environmental Health (CEH)

The Center for Environmental Health, headed by Interim Director Nancy Kim, Ph.D., will report to the Office for Public Health. The Center applies scientific, medical, engineering, and public health expertise to identify, understand, prevent, and mitigate risks to human health from New York State's living and working environments.

Dr. Kim provides direction for environmental health programs, working with DOH's regional offices, as well as county health departments and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She is also an Associate Professor at the School of Public Health at the University at Albany.

Wadsworth Center

The Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research will continue to be led by Lawrence Sturman, M.D., and will report to the Office for Public Health. The Wadsworth Center is the state's public health laboratory, which conducts lab analyses in infectious diseases, genetic disorders, cellular and molecular pathology and environmental toxicants. The labs also provide a scientific foundation for DOH's policies and practices through laboratory certification, research and educational programs.

Dr. Sturman was recently named Executive Director of the Empire State Stem Cell Program, and has been with the Department for 37 years.

Office of Public Health Practice

Sylvia Pirani will direct the Office of Public Health Practice, formerly known as the Office of Local Health Services. Her office provides technical, administrative and fiscal support to local health departments to ensure they have adequate capacity to deliver essential public health services, leads a statewide public health workforce capacity building initiative, coordinates distance learning opportunities, works with the New York State Association of County Health Officials on policy and program issues, and promotes social marketing tools for public health professionals and works on related projects to strengthen the state and local public health system.

Ms. Pirani has been with the Department for 13 years, and previously worked at the New York City Department of Health for eight years on child health policy issues.

Health Emergency Preparedness

With 30 years in public health experience, Robert Burhans will remain the Director of Health Emergency Preparedness Program, coordinating DOH's comprehensive all-hazards preparedness and response activities, including integrating local health departments and the healthcare system in readiness activities.

He is the DOH's primary preparedness liaison with other federal, state and local agencies and key community partners. He also serves on the state Office of Homeland Security's Executive Committee and is DOH's representative to the State's Disaster Preparedness Commission.

Office of Science

Dale L. Morse, M.D. is now Assistant Commissioner, Office of Science. The Office reports directly to the Commissioner of Health and is not part of the Office of Public Health. Dr. Morse will oversee the application of medical and public health science to Department programs and ensure that DOH is engaged in vigorous research to improve the public health. He will continue as the principal investigator on key cross-cutting Department grants dealing with preparedness, asthma, informatics and emerging infectious diseases. He will also serve as DOH's executive lead and liaison to the School of Public Health at the University at Albany.

He chairs the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. In his 27 years with the Department, he served as state epidemiologist for more than 12 years, and been a member of multiple CDC, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture national advisory committees.

Kathleen Carlton has been named Associate Director, Office of Science. She has more than 32 years of DOH experience in chronic and communicable disease activities.