Dr. Robbie Goldstein, a senior policy adviser at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been appointed as the new commissioner for the state’s Department of Public Health.
Goldstein, who also is an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, will take over for Margret Cooke beginning April 18. Cooke was appointed as acting commissioner in February 2022 after working for years at the agency as general counsel and will stay on in an advisory capacity to support the transition.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh said Goldstein will address some of the most critical issues facing Massachusetts residents, with a focus on health equity, inclusion, and reducing barriers to care, bringing his expertise not only from the CDC but also from his role as a physician.
In a statement, Goldstein said he would have an approach rooted in equity.
“The power and impact of public health are tremendous,” Goldstein said in a statement. “We face big challenges – among them, gun violence in our streets and homes, substance use taking the lives of too many, threats to reproductive health care, ongoing efforts to address COVID-19, and ensuring preparedness for whatever may come next.”
Goldstein most recently served as an adviser to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on public health emergency response, infectious disease, and the CDC’s strategic policy initiatives. He was not only actively involved in the emergency response to COVID but also worked to control the 2022 outbreak of monkeypox.
Prior to his work at the CDC, Goldstein served as medical director and founder of the MGH Transgender Health Program, a clinical program focused on the transgender and nonbinary community of Massachusetts and New England.
Goldstein holds a bachelor of science, an MD and PhD from Tufts University, and completed his residency training in internal medicine at MGH, where he served as chief resident. He completed his infectious disease training in the MGH/Brigham and Women’s Hospital infectious disease program.
Goldstein has a specialty in HIV treatment and prevention, focusing his clinical work on providing care to those living with and at risk for HIV.
He ran for election to the US House in 2020 but lost in the Democratic primary to US Representative Stephen Lynch. At the time, the Globe reported that Goldstein supported abortion rights and a single-payer health care system. He grew up in upstate New York; his parents ran a dentistry practice.
The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association applauded the appointment.
“This is a critical time for public health, especially as we continue to address the widespread impacts of the pandemic, accelerate our focus on health equity, and strengthen the foundation of preventative care that keeps patients healthy before they reach hospital doors,” said Michael Sroczynski, senior vice president and general counsel, in a statement. “Dr. Goldstein’s experience and proven leadership within some of the highest levels of public health make him an outstanding choice to help lead the commonwealth on these priorities.”
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders pointed to Goldstein’s experience with issues affecting the LGBTQ community.
“LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color, continue to experience significant barriers in access to healthcare, including the need to expand access to HIV prevention medication and eliminate barriers to essential medical care for transgender people,” said Bennett Klein, senior director of litigation and HIV Law for GLAD. “It is heartening that Dr. Goldstein brings deep experience with LGBTQ health and reducing health inequities.”
Amy Rosenthal, executive director at Health Care For All, praised Goldstein’s work with underrepresented groups. “We are confident that Commissioner Goldstein will work to eliminate barriers to ensure equitable care for all residents of the Commonwealth and look forward to working with such a caring and experienced individual,” she said in a statement.
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