Harvard Medical School instructor Robert H. Goldstein will be the next commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the DPH announced in a news release Monday.
Goldstein, who will assume the role on April 18, currently works at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a senior policy adviser and at Massachusetts General Hospital as an infectious disease physician.
A graduate of Tufts University, Goldstein said he became passionate about public health after helping HIV patients during his residency at the MGH, which led him to pursue a fellowship in the program. MGH/Brigham and Women’s Infectious Diseases.
“You can’t be an HIV doctor and not be interested in public health — they go hand in hand,” Goldstein said. “We need a strong public health system to care for people at risk of contracting HIV and living with HIV, as they are often the most vulnerable in our societies.
“My work in HIV medicine and my work with those most affected by HIV — particularly the LGBTQ community — meant I had to engage, fit in, and be part of the public health system,” Goldstein added. .
In the press release announcing the appointment, Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen E. Walsh said she would work with Goldstein to address critical issues for Massachusetts residents, stressing the importance of ” health equity, inclusion and reduced barriers to care for the most vulnerable communities in our state.
“It was a no-brainer to say yes to that, to be able to work with such an amazing team and do some really interesting and impactful work,” Goldstein said. “What I’m excited to do is work alongside people who have worked in the department for many years and also bring in new people who will continue that commitment and continue that work to really break down the structural barriers in place. . ”
Walsh said Goldstein’s experience in clinical and political settings “positions him well to lead the public health response in Massachusetts.”
Margret R. Cooke, the current commissioner, will transition to an advisory role for seven months after Goldstein’s appointment begins to “support a smooth transition at DPH,” the statement said.
Asked about specific plans to overcome structural barriers to medical care accessibility, Goldstein said he wanted to start by learning from current DPH officials to see “what works well and what doesn’t work well.”
Still, Goldstein discussed plans he intends to pursue once he assumes the position, including those related to potential negative impacts on health care accessibility following Massachusetts’ plan to end to the public health emergency for Covid-19 on May 11.
Goldstein said the end of the Covid-19 public health emergency could negatively impact people seeking treatment for a substance use disorder, people seeking gender-affirming care or people who live in rural Massachusetts.
“As a public health department, we need to be at the table with others, including folks from MassHealth and the Department of Mental Health,” Goldstein said. “What are we doing for people who still need these addiction treatment programs and providers, but can’t access them because they don’t have a car to go virtually to where they were receiving care ?”
As a policy advisor to the CDC, Goldstein was closely involved in the federal government’s response to Covid-19 as well as the 2022 monkeypox outbreak, which was successfully controlled.
Goldstein said an “unspoken” public health challenge he wanted to address was to rebuild “the trust that people have in public health.”
“Over the past three to four years, confidence in public health has declined,” Goldstein said. “It’s a huge impact on our ability to get people vaccinated, on our ability to educate people on common sense gun violence prevention strategies, on the opportunities we have to connect people to reproductive care and access services to reduce maternal mortality.”
In light of the public health workforce shortage, Goldstein said her educational work at HMS was aimed at “exciting people about public health, getting people interested in public health as a career and to make them aware of the power and impact of public health. ”
“Even before Covid started, we had lost tens of thousands of public health workers across the country,” Goldstein said. “Now, at the end of the public health emergency, we’re not really in a better place.”
Goldstein stressed the importance of getting undergraduate students to explore careers in public health.
“Public health is really exciting,” Goldstein said. “We need to start rebuilding that workforce, and no better way to start than with really enthusiastic, enthusiastic, really smart people who are in colleges and universities right now.”
— Writer Dylan H. Phan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dylanhieuphan.
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