As New York City grieved its first swine flu death and looked ahead to more likely school closings related to the virus, Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced the new commissioner who will take over the health department next month. Dr. Thomas Farley is set to succeed Dr. Thomas Frieden, who is leaving to head the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Farley, a pediatrician and epidemiologist with years of experience in infectious diseases, said at a City Hall news conference that he is ready for “the best job in the field of public health.”
Bloomberg noted that the appointment takes on great importance as the city continues to deal with swine flu. An assistant principal at a Queens school died of the virus Sunday evening, and several schools have been closed since swine flu was first detected at a private school last month.
Farley comes to New York from the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. He has served as a senior adviser to Frieden since 2007.
He also worked for the CDC and the Louisiana Office of Public Health. In Louisiana, he oversaw efforts to control tuberculosis, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.
The New Jersey native said his overall goal at the health department is to “continue to make advances against the leading causes of death for New Yorkers today, such as smoking and obesity.”
Under Frieden, New York City’s health department has aggressively used public health policy to influence residents’ lifestyles. The city banned smoking in bars and restaurants, outlawed trans-fats in restaurant food, and forced chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus.
Farley declined to discuss specific policies he would like to implement. He starts the job June 8.