Posted on January 23, 2014 · Posted in Roosevelt House General News, Tisch Legacy Project News

Former NYC Commissioner of Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to Work on Public Health Policy and Assist Food Policy Center

New York, NY (January 21, 2014)Hunter College today announced it has appointed Thomas A. Farley, MD, MPH, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as the 2014 Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow in Public Health at Hunter College of the City University of New York.

A forceful advocate of using environmental and policy change to prevent the leading causes of death and to improve quality of life, Dr. Farley will begin his year-long fellowship later this month.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Farley to Hunter College, and look forward to collaborating with him as he continues the groundbreaking public health work he did in the Bloomberg administration.” said Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab. “In the past, Dr. Farley has worked with our faculty on a number of initiatives, and it is immensely gratifying to have him become an official part of the Hunter family. He will collaborate with Hunter’s distinguished faculty in public health, urban affairs and social work, and will inspire future public health workers.”

During his fellowship, Dr. Farley plans to work with Hunter’s College’s Food Policy Center. He will also help develop new approaches to using policy to promote health, publish on public health issues and policies, lead a faculty seminar and work with both undergraduates and graduate students.

“I am both grateful for the opportunity and excited to get started,” said Dr. Farley.  “I believe Hunter, whose faculty and students are very much engaged in the real world of New York’s public health issues, is the perfect place for me to continue the effort of making our city, our nation – and especially, our children – as healthy as they can be.”

The Tisch Fellowship

The Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow in Public Health is an annual fellowship for a prominent public health care practitioner.  Fellows serve as a scholar-in-residence at Hunter College, engaging both in teaching and urban public health research covering a variety of issues, including living with chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS and diabetes, disease prevention and health disparities.

The Fellowship, funded by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, is part of the Joan H. Tisch Legacy Project at Hunter College.  The Project, established to honor New York City humanitarian activist Joan Hyman Tisch, addresses major urban public health issues, from chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, obesity and diabetes to health disparities due to economic and environmental factors.

Other components of the Project include an annual Public Health Forum focusing on national and New York City public health issues, and a $10,000 Community Health Prize awarded each year to an individual and a community health organization for distinguished accomplishment in the field of urban public health.

The Tisch fellowship is located at Roosevelt House, Hunter College’s Public Policy Institute, in the historic former New York City home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt.  To find more about the fellowship and read about past fellows, click here.

About Dr. Thomas Farley

As Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Dr. Farley led some 6,000 employees and a budget of $1.5 billion. During his time as Health Commissioner, he advocated for groundbreaking public health policies in New York City, including making the city’s parks and beaches smoke-free, prohibiting price discounting of cigarettes, raising the legal sales age of tobacco to 21, capping the portion size of sugary drinks sold in restaurants at 16 ounces, and restricting the burning of air-polluting dirty fuels to heat buildings. During Dr. Farley’s time at the agency, the NYC Health Department led the National Salt Reduction Initiative, which has successfully worked with major food companies to reduce sodium levels in food nationwide.  He also introduced letter-grading of restaurants based on sanitary inspections, which led to improvements in restaurant cleanliness and a decline in the city’s rate of salmonella infections.

Dr. Farley also used mass media to deliver powerful messages to promote health behaviors, including creating the “Pouring on the Pounds” sugary drink ads on subways and television, introducing the “Two Drinks Ago” campaign to reduce binge alcohol drinking,  and developing a series of hard-hitting ads on the health consequences of smoking.  During his tenure as Health Commissioner, mortality rates fell sharply and life expectancy rose far more quickly in New York City than in the rest of the nation.

A pediatrician by training, Dr. Farley began his public health career as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and later served as a medical officer at the Louisiana Office of Public Health. While there, he oversaw successful efforts to increase childhood immunization and control tuberculosis, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

Dr. Farley worked extensively in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, working with a CDC team on a long-term plan for rebuilding the city’s public health and healthcare infrastructure. Immediately prior to joining NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Dr. Farley was chair of the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Dr. Farley earned his medical and public health degrees at Tulane University, and a BA in mathematics from Haverford College. He is widely published, with articles featured in leading medical journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, and the American Journal of Public Health. His body of research covers a wide range of topics, including Legionnaires’ disease, prevention of HIV/STDs, infant mortality and obesity.

Dr. Farley is coauthor with RAND Corporation Senior Scientist Deborah Cohen of Prescription for a Healthy Nation, published in 2005 by Beacon Press, which explains how changes in the physical and social environment can improve health and counter the leading causes of premature death.

In taking up the Tisch fellowship, Dr. Farley joins a distinguished roster of previous fellows, including, Dr. Richard Jackson, Professor and Chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles; Professor Sue Atkinson, first Director of Public Health for London; Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the  American Public Health Association; and Harvard professor, Dr. John McDonough, who was the Senior Adviser to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

About Hunter College

Hunter College, located in the heart of Manhattan, is the largest college in the City University of New York (CUNY) system. Founded in 1870, it is also one of the oldest public colleges in the country and famous for the diversity of its student body, which is as diverse as New York City itself.

Most Hunter students are the first in their families to attend college and many go on to top professional and graduate programs, winning Fulbright scholarships, Mellon fellowships, National Institutes of Health grants, and other competitive honors.

The 1,700 full- and part-time members of Hunter’s faculty are unparalleled. They receive prestigious national grants, contribute to the world’s leading academic journals, and play major roles in cutting-edge research. They are fighting cancer, formulating public policy, expanding our culture, enhancing technology, and more.