Ashwin Vasan, MD, PhD
Commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Rosa M. Gil, DSW
President and CEO of Communilife
Sidney Hankerson, MD, MBA
Co-Director, Columbia University Wellness Center
Mitchell Katz, MD
President of NYC Health + Hospitals
Simona C. Kwon, DrPH, MPH
Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, NYU Grossman School of Medicine
Gail B. Nayowith, MSW
Principal of 1digit LLC
Angelo Acquista, MD
Physician in private practice
Judith A. Salerno, MD, MS
President Emeritus and Senior Scholar at The New York Academy of Medicine
Maida Galvez, MD, MPH
Pediatrician at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Michael A. Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH
Dean and Paulette Goddard Professor of Social Work at NYU Silver School of Social Work
Yellow Fever was plaguing New York City when the Board of Health held its first meeting in 1805. Led by Mayor De Witt Clinton, the board evacuated stricken neighborhoods and started collecting mortality statistics, to "furnish data for reflection and calculation." Yellow Jack swept the city for the last time in 1822, but cholera, typhus and tuberculosis persisted, fueled by crowding and a lack of sanitation.
Everything changed in 1866, when the New York State Legislature expanded the Board and insulated it from political influence by setting aside seats for physicians and scientists. Newly empowered, the Board decreed that "neither hogs nor goats [could] run at large in our city" and pressured landlords to maintain their buildings. Cholera deaths promptly fell by 90 percent.
The 11-member Board of Health remains a vital force today. Most members - appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the City Council - serve six-year terms. Each Board member is a recognized expert, and the group represents a broad range of health and medical disciplines. They serve without pay and, like judges, cannot be dismissed without cause. As the overseer of New York City's Health Code, the Board has enacted countless measures to improve the wellbeing of New Yorkers over the years - including a ban on interior lead paint, modern tuberculosis control provisions and, more recently, a plan for eliminating trans fat from restaurants.