Dr. Monica Bharel to serve as Cabinet-level Senior Advisor to coordinate city’s ongoing response to the overlapping crises centered around Mass Ave and Melnea Cass Blvd.
Boston, MA, November 10, 2021 — Following a meeting with housing and health care providers at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) on Albany Street, Mayor-elect Michelle Wu will announce her first three Cabinet appointments, including a new Cabinet-level senior advisor, to lead the City’s response to urgent public health and housing challenges, including the ongoing public health emergency related to substance use disorder, homelessness, and mental illness, centered around the area known as “Mass and Cass.”
Consistent with her stated commitment to a public health-led approach to the crisis, Mayor-elect Wu intends to appoint Dr. Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), as a new Cabinet-level Senior Advisor to take charge of the city’s efforts over the next six months to address the intersecting crises of substance use disorder, mental health, public safety, and homelessness.
Mayor-elect Wu also announced that she will elevate Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, MD, MPH, Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission, to her Cabinet, expanding her role in leading the city’s broader public health efforts, including response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mayor-elect has asked Chief Marty Martinez of the Mayor’s Office Health and Human Services, who has overseen the city’s health, violence prevention, and other efforts, to support the transition as a senior advisor.
The Mayor-elect also announced her intention to reappoint Sheila A. Dillon, the City’s current Chief of Housing and Director of the Department of Neighborhood Development. Chief Dillon will coordinate closely with Dr. Bharel on securing the necessary low-threshold and permanent supportive housing, with full wraparound health and social services, to address the urgent need, while spearheading the Mayor-elect’s broader agenda to increase the availability of affordable housing throughout the city. Standing alongside the three leaders, Wu pledged to tackle the immediate crisis with a coordinated city response.
“The humanitarian crisis at Mass and Cass demands urgent, bold solutions that create genuine pathways to recovery and stability for our most vulnerable residents––and we need the right team to get it done,” said Mayor-elect Wu. “Dr. Bharel, Dr. Ojikutu, and Chief Dillon have dedicated their careers to serving the public and each brings a track record of results. This is the team that we need for Boston as we prioritize public health and housing and center the safety and dignity of all those struggling with substance use disorder, mental health, and housing instability.”
“This ongoing crisis of substance use disorder, mental health issues, and homelessness requires a coordinated response from government, service providers, and our communities,” said Dr. Bharel. “Mayor-elect Wu is committed to working with our state and regional partners to secure the lasting public health-led solutions that this moment demands and our residents deserve”
“I’m honored to continue to serve the City through Mayor-Elect Wu’s cabinet in my role as Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission and leader of Boston’s public health department,” said Dr. Ojikutu. “I look forward to joining Mayor-Elect Wu in addressing health inequity in Boston and tackling the critical issues our communities face every day, from substance use disorder and mental health, to COVID response and recovery, to gun violence.”
“It’s been a great honor to serve as the City of Boston’s Chief of Housing and Director of the Department of Neighborhood Development, and I’m thrilled to continue this work under the leadership of a Mayor who recognizes that safe, accessible, and affordable is the foundation of healthy communities,” said Chief Dillon. “We urgently need to create new low-threshold housing to meet the immediate needs of the people living at the intersection of these crises, while using every lever of City power to build deeply affordable housing across all our neighborhoods. I’m grateful to Mayor-elect Wu for her partnership on this urgent agenda, and I’m eager to get to work alongside the dedicated expertise of Dr. Bharel and Dr. Ojikutu.”
To learn more about Mayor-elect Wu and the transition, visit www.AllAboardBoston.com or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Monica Bharel, MD, MPH
As Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Dr. Monica Bharel served as the Commonwealth’s chief physician from 2015-2021. She helped lead the state’s aggressive response to the opioid crisis and is dedicated to reducing health disparities and developing data-driven, evidence-based solutions for keeping people healthy. Most recently, Dr. Bharel led the Massachusetts public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Commissioner, Dr. Bharel oversaw a public health workforce of nearly 3000 and an expansive department addressing issues, from environmental health to injury prevention to infectious diseases. Under her leadership, Massachusetts ranked nationally as among the healthiest states in the nation.
Dr. Bharel is a board certified internist who has practiced general internal medicine for more than 20 years, including at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Medical Center, neighborhood health centers, the Veterans Administration and nonprofit organizations. She has served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, Boston University Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health, and has been recognized for her dedication to underserved and vulnerable populations. Prior to becoming Commissioner, she was Chief Medical Officer of Boston Health Care for the Homeless.
She holds a Master of Public Health degree through the Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy. She holds a medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine and completed a residency and chief residency in internal medicine at Boston City Hospital/Boston Medical Center.
Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, MD, MPH
Bisola Ojikutu MD MPH is a nationally recognized physician leader, health equity researcher, community advocate and expert in the prevention, care and treatment of infectious diseases. Dr. Ojikutu was appointed Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) in September 2021.
As Executive Director of the BPHC, the city's health department, Dr. Ojikutu manages a budget of $162M and leads 1,200 employees to protect, preserve, and promote the health and well-being of all Boston residents, particularly the most vulnerable. Dr. Ojikutu is a key advisor to Boston's Mayor on health issues and builds innovative partnerships across city departments and within Boston’s communities to positively impact the health of all city residents. Among other public health priorities, she is committed to addressing racism as a public health crisis and advancing health equity.
Dr. Ojikutu is a faculty member within the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She also holds appointments within the Infectious Disease Division at Massachusetts General Hospitals and is an adjunct faculty member at The Fenway Institute. She has led research and developed programs focused on increasing access to health care among marginalized populations funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HIV/AIDS Bureau). Most recently, Dr. Ojikutu served as Director of the Community Engaged Research Program and the Associate Director of the Bio-Behavioral and Community Science Core for the Harvard Center for AIDS Research. She is widely published in peer-reviewed journals including, the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Journal of Public Health, and is the co-editor of two comprehensive textbooks detailing strategies to address the ongoing HIV epidemic with Black and Latinx communities, HIV in US Communities of Color. In 2018, she was appointed co-Chair of the Getting to Zero Statewide Campaign Comprehensive Care Committee to reduce HIV infections in Massachusetts. In recognition of her efforts, she was named a Hero in Action by AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts and a Community Hero by Action for Boston Community Development.
Dr. Ojikutu also has significant international experience. As a Senior Advisor at John Snow Inc, Dr. Ojikutu directed a $30 million project that provided program management, strategic planning and technical assistance to improve HIV care and treatment to 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. She is also the former Director of the Office of International Programs at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Ojikutu graduated from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She completed internal medicine
residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell and Infectious Disease Fellowship at Massachusetts General/Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is a former Commonwealth Fund Fellow in Minority Health Policy and has a Master’s in Public Health in Health Policy and Management from the Harvard School of Public Health. She is board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases and is a Fellow of the Infectious Disease Society of America.
Sheila A. Dillon
Sheila A. Dillon currently serves as the Chief of Housing for the City of Boston — a member of the Mayor’s Cabinet, and a key advisor to the Mayor on housing issues in Boston. In this role she oversees the management of the Boston Home Center, Neighborhood Housing Development, Real Estate Management and Sales, and spearheads the City’s efforts around housing Boston’s homeless. In addition, she leads the Office of Housing Stability, which is charged with protecting residents’ tenancies in Boston’s competitive real estate market.
Prior to her current appointment, Sheila served as the Director of the Bureau of Rental Assistance at the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. In addition to her work in government, Sheila was the Director of Real Estate at the Massachusetts Housing Partnership and the Director of Development for the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation.
She received her undergraduate degree from the State University of New York, an M.B.A. from Suffolk University, and a M.A. in Psychology from Pepperdine University. She currently lives in Boston with her husband and two children.