State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel Announces Departure

BOSTON — Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders announced that, after serving as the commissioner of the Department of Public Health for more than six years, Dr. Monica Bharel is stepping down effective June 18.

Appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2015, Bharel has steered the Department of Public Health through significant public-health challenges, including the opioid epidemic, vaping-associated lung disease, eastern equine encephalitis, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The longest-serving commissioner of Public Health since 1997, Bharel brought a health-equity lens to all of the department’s work. A primary-care physician with more than 20 years of clinical experience, she holds a master’s degree in public health in healthcare management and policy.

“Commissioner Bharel’s steadfast work ethic and commitment to health equity has made a lasting impact on hundreds of thousands of residents of the Commonwealth,” Sudders said. “Her tireless advocacy for the public health of all residents helped the administration navigate the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic with compassion. On behalf of the administration, I extend my deepest thanks to Commissioner Bharel for her service to the Commonwealth during these unprecedented times and to wish her the very best as she pursues her next professional chapter.”

Bharel called it “an honor and privilege to serve residents of the Commonwealth as the state’s top physician and the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. After serving in this role for more than six years, which is longer than any Public Health commissioner has served in nearly a quarter of a century, it is the right time to begin a new chapter. DPH staff have helped make Massachusetts a national leader in COVID-19 testing and vaccination while demonstrating a tireless commitment to placing health equity front and center of that work. Because of our work these past six years, Massachusetts now consistently ranks as one of the healthiest states in the nation.”

Margret Cooke, currently serving as the department’s deputy commissioner, will serve as interim commissioner. Cooke joined the Department of Public Health as general counsel in 2015 before becoming deputy commissioner. Previously, she served as deputy bureau chief in the Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.