New York State Department of Health Expands Senior Leadership Team

Department Announces Recent Hiring of Two Former Local Health Department Commissioners with Decades of Experience

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 17, 2024) – The New York State Department of Health today announced that two former local health department commissioners will serve in new leadership roles for the agency—Dr. Elizabeth Whalen as Medical Director of the Office of Public Health and Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert as Medical Director of the Center for Environmental Health.

"We remain dedicated to rebuilding the Department and hiring experienced, compassionate, and strong leaders with a mission of advocating for the health equity of all New Yorkers," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Dr. Whalen and Dr. Ruppert are two exceptional public health professionals with decades of experience in local health departments. We are thrilled to have them join our team."

The Department continues to expand its leadership team, reaffirming its commitment to strengthening the agency by hiring experienced public health officials who strive to improve the health of all New Yorkers.

Dr. Elizabeth Whalen joins the State Health Department with more than 20 years of experience as a public health physician, most recently as Commissioner of Health for Albany County, a position she held for more than eight years. Under her leadership, the Albany County Health Department was awarded National Public Health Accreditation from the National Public Health Accreditation Board. Dr. Whalen led the county's response to COVID-19 and oversaw programs and services for maternal child health, community health workers, communicable disease, health promotion and education, public health emergency preparedness, and environmental health.

Dr. Whalen obtained board certification in Internal Medicine, worked in clinical medicine before completing additional training in public health, and obtained a master's degree in public health and additional medical board certification in public health and preventive medicine through a program jointly sponsored by the State University of New York at Albany School of Public Health and the New York State Department of Health. She is also a Diplomat of the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine. She also received numerous awards for leadership from the American Heart Association, the Whitney Young Federally Qualified Health Center, and the State University of New York at Albany.

Additionally, Dr. Patrica Schnabel Ruppert joined the Department after 10 years as the Commissioner of Health and eight years as the Commissioner of Hospitals for Rockland County.

She is board-certified in Family Medicine and is a Certified Physician Executive. As Commissioner of Health, Dr. Ruppert was the Chief Medical Officer who led the Rockland County Department of Health during local outbreaks of hepatitis A, legionella, Zika, the Ebola threat, the measles outbreak of 2018 to 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic and paralytic polio case in 2022.

During the measles outbreak, her team of 230 full and part-time staff was supported on the ground by the State Health Department and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Through this collaboration, the U.S. retained its measles elimination status by six days.

Dr. Ruppert led one of New York's largest full-service public health departments with responsibility for regulation and enforcement of the State and County Sanitary Code Provisions, including monitoring and regulation of restaurants and food vendors, swimming pools, public water systems, sewage treatment, and sewage disposal systems, as well as rabies and Lyme disease control, lead poisoning prevention, and disaster medicine.

During her tenure, Rockland County was recognized multiple times as the Healthiest County in New York State while she led her department through the rigorous process of achieving first-ever accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). She graduated from the Executive MPH Program in Health Policy and Management from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and remains on the Alumni Board of Directors. She has also been inducted into the Delta Omega Honor Society in Public Health.

"I am thrilled and honored to join the staff of the New York State Department of Health," Medical Director of the State Health Department Office of Public Health Dr. Elizabeth Whalen said. "I look forward to advancing health policies and strategies that will improve the health of New Yorkers."

"I am eager to continue my service in public health in the New York State Department of Health's Center for Environmental Health," Medical Director of the State Health Department Center for Environmental Health Dr. Patrica Schnabel Ruppert said. "Our goals are to promote health equity for all New Yorkers as we work together to prevent and reduce health risks at home, work, school, and play."

Other recent hires and promotions include Johanne Morne as Executive Deputy Commissioner, Dr. Douglas Fish as Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Primary Care and Health Systems Management, Dr. Leonard Peruski as Director of the Wadsworth Center, and Andrew Ruby as Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Administration.