Dr. Richard F. Daines

Health Department Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines was director of St. Barnabas Hospital and St. Luke's-Roosevelt. (Michael P. Farrell / Times Union)
Health Department Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines was director of St. Barnabas Hospital and St. Luke's-Roosevelt.
(Michael P. Farrell/Times Union)

Originally published in the Times Union. Used with permission.

First published: Monday, July 23, 2007

Commissioner, Department of Health

56, Stanfordville, Dutchess County

Personal: Married to Linda Daines, manager of private client services at Goldman Sachs; children William, 27, third-year student at Cornell Medical School; Katherine, 25, financial analyst; Andrew, 21, student at the U.S. Naval Academy, currently on leave as a Mormon missionary in Malaysia.

Hobbies: Gardening on his farm and woodworking.

What he does: Oversees the state Department of Health.

How he got there: Bachelor's degree in history from Utah State University, 1974; served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bolivia, 1970-1972; medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in 1978, residency in internal medicine at New York Hospital and board-certified in internal medicine and critical care medicine; medical director at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, New York, 1987-1999; medical director at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in 2000, promoted to president and CEO in 2002. Nominated as health commissioner by Gov. Eliot Spitzer in January.

Salary: $136,000

How is this job different from being a hospital CEO? "The spectrum is just quite amazing. The public health, epidemiology and science piece that we have all the way up to hospital financing and regulatory things, its tremendous breadth of challenges."

What was it like being on the government side of the budget process? "I moved so quickly from being a hospital CEO and looking at it from that point of view to joining the administration and seeing it from a different point of view. I thought I brought some balance to it, in understanding how hospitals both look at the specific policy implications of reimbursement changes and at the same time you have to add up a bottom line. You have to make the bottom line agree with the policy buckets that the money comes in from."

Did the Berger Commission go far enough? "They went as far, in their judgment, that they could, and given the challenges that we are meeting in implementing it, I think we've got plenty to do with it. We think it will also precipitate more changes. We are hearing about additional plans from systems that are subject to Berger requirements and systems that aren't. ... Some forward-looking people are using it as a springboard to do even more."

What do you hope to accomplish during your term as commissioner? "I list a lot of things. In terms of public health goals, we have goals to improve health care indicators for large groups of people. A very discrete one is to reduce the number of smokers. We are also looking at obesity and diabetes.

"A second one is to implement an information technology structure for the whole state. We have a hospital and long-term care restructuring which begins with Berger but will continue. We are in the midst of re-evaluating health care reimbursement, and Medicaid is the piece we control most directly. We are revising both hospital and ambulatory reimbursement. We are taking a look at the indigent care system.

"... The overarching goal for all of that is to incrementally move toward universal health care so essentially every New Yorker has health insurance."

How did your experience as a Mormon missionary shape your career? "Learning Spanish and living in a different culture for two years piqued my interest. Just simply the Spanish alone made my career in New York City medicine a lot easier because I started practicing in the south Bronx. I probably spoke more Spanish than English."

Why do you work at a standing desk? "It's been shown that one of the ways people can successfully balance their intake of calories and how many calories they burn is some people naturally stand and move and agitate around their office all day and they burn a few more calories than people who just sit in a chair. The difference of a few calories a day, over a year, over a decade, is why some people get overweight and some don't."

-- Cathleen F. Crowley