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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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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.

John Auerbach

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.

Auerbach's appointment arrives a week after Patrick announced a $72 million increase in public health spending, with the money being used to expand childhood vaccinations and disease-prevention campaigns.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 03:23 PM
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