Black Doctor Appointed First-Ever CMO In NYC Health Department

(CMC) – New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has appointed Dr. Michelle Morse to serve as the agency’s first chief medical officer (CMO).

“As the agency’s inaugural chief medical officer, Dr. Morse will have the responsibility of leading the agency’s work in bridging public health and health care, ensuring greater alignment and coordination with health care systems, and serving as a key liaison to clinicians and clinical leaders across New York City,” said the DOHMH in a statement on Tuesday.

“Dr. Morse’s experience has combined the best of public health, social medicine, anti-racism education, and activism,” said DOHMH Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “Health equity requires leaders who propel change and I am grateful that she has joined the Department to help us create a healthier, more equitable, city.”

Dr. Morse, who is also DOHMH deputy commissioner, said she was “honored to join the department and serve New Yorkers during this once-in-a-century pandemic because operationalizing health equity is more urgent than ever.

“My past experiences from coordinating earthquake and cholera response work in Haiti to developing new organizations and programs that advance health equity and accountability have brought me to this juncture,” she said. “I cannot wait to learn from my colleagues and team at the Health Department and the communities we serve across the city.”

Dr. Morse will succeed Dr. Torian Easterling as the head of the Centre for Health Equity and Community Wellness (CHECW), where she will oversee the agency’s work focused on increasing understanding of health inequities and capacity for action to end disparities within the DOHMH and the communities we serve, reducing premature mortality, with a focus on chronic disease, and ending racial inequities in the leading causes of preventable death.

Dr. Easterling was appointed to serve as the agency’s First Deputy Commissioner and Chief Equity Officer in September 2020.

Dr. Morse is an internal medicine hospitalist, co-founder of EqualHealth, and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, the DOHMH said.

It said EqualHealth is a non-profit organization that builds critical consciousness and collective action globally in the pursuit of health equity for all.

Dr. Morse was previously the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Partners in Health (PIH) and now serves on the PIH board of directors, the DOHMH said.

In 2015, the DOHMH said Dr. Morse worked with several EqualHealth partners to found the Social Medicine Consortium (SMC), a global coalition that seeks to use activism and disruptive pedagogy rooted in the practice and teaching of social medicine to address the miseducation of health professionals on the root causes of illness.

In 2018, Dr. Morse was awarded as a Soros Equality Fellowship working with colleagues to launch EqualHealth’s global Campaign Against Racism.

In September 2019, the DOHMH said she began a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellowship in Washington, D.C and worked with the US House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, Majority Staff, on health equity priorities.

As a Howard Hiatt Global Health Equity resident in Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital from 2008-2012, Dr. Morse worked in Haiti, Rwanda, and Botswana.

The DOHMH said she focused her international work in Haiti, where she helped to coordinate Partners in Health’s (PIH) earthquake relief efforts, was a first-responder for the cholera epidemic, and worked on women’s health and quality improvement projects.

Dr. Morse earned her B.S. in French in 2003 from the University of Virginia, her M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 2008, and her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health in May 2012.