Mary Bassett Conference Presentation: Pulling Back the Curtain: COVID-19 and Historic Health Inequities
Since the beginning of recorded health data in the United States, Black Americans have consistently experienced poorer health outcomes and shorter life expectancy than their white counterparts due to enduring impact of structural racism. This pattern has continued through COVID-19, when during the most recent Omicron surge, hospitalization rates among Black New Yorkers were twice that of white New Yorkers. In this presentation, we will discuss the multitude of factors underlying structural racism, how they negatively impact communities of color in New York State and around the country, and actionable steps that healthcare providers, public health officials, and others must take to make meaningful and enduring change in the fight towards health equity and justice.
Mary T. Bassett, M.D., M.P.H., was appointed New York Acting Commissioner of Health on December 1, 2021, and confirmed by the State Senate on January 20, 2022. She previously served as Director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights in the department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Prior to that, she served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Director for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s African Health Initiative and Child Well-Being Prevention Program; and as Deputy Commissioner of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Early in her career, Dr. Bassett served on the medical faculty at the University of Zimbabwe and went on to serve as Associate Director of Health Equity at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Southern Africa Office. After returning to the United States, she served on the faculty of Columbia University, including as Associate Professor of Clinical Epidemiology in the Mailman School of Public Health. Dr. Bassett received a B.A. in History and Science from Harvard University, an M.D. from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and an M.P.H. from the University of Washington.