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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Boston Globe Health and Science staff:
Karen Weintraub, Deputy Health and Science Editor, and Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor.
Short White Coat blogger Ishani Ganguli
Monday, March 5, 2007
New chief chosen for Department of Public Health
By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff
The Patrick administration today named John Auerbach, the veteran chief of Boston's health department, as the state's new public health commissioner, placing a familiar face in a high-profile job.
For Auerbach, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission for nine years, the appointment marks a return to state government, where he once served as director of the HIV/AIDS Bureau as well as chief of staff of the Department of Public Health.
The announcement was made by Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, health secretary under Governor Deval Patrick. Bigby and Auerbach have a long-standing working relationship: Bigby served on the volunteer board that sets health policy in Boston throughout Auerbach's tenure.
Bigby announced in January that she was replacing the current public health commissioner, Paul J. Cote, who had been appointed by Mitt Romney while he was governor. As rumors about potential successors circulated at the health agency's headquarters, Auerbach's name immediately ascended to the top of the list.
He had gained national prominence in public health circles by championing sometimes-controversial causes such as banning smoking in bars and restaurants and, more recently, reviewing whether the city should ban trans-fats from restaurants and bakeries. Auerbach also directed a groundbreaking campaign to address ethnic and racial disparities in healthcare, which his boss, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, declared as the most pressing medical issue in the city.