Mary T. Bassett , MD, MPH
With more than 30 years of experience in public health, Dr. Mary Travis Bassett has dedicated her career to advancing health equity.
After Dr. Bassett completed her medical training, she moved to Harare, Zimbabwe, where she served on the medical faculty at the University of Zimbabwe for 17 years. In that role, she developed a range of AIDS prevention interventions to address one of the world’s worst AIDS epidemics. She later served as the associate director of Health Equity at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Southern Africa Office, overseeing its Africa AIDS portfolio.
In 2002, Dr. Bassett was appointed deputy commissioner of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where she directed key initiatives, including banning smoking and trans fats in restaurants and requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts. She also established the department’s District Public Health Offices (DPHOs) in East and Central Harlem, the South Bronx and North and Central Brooklyn, to lead targeted health and communication strategies in these communities, which experience an excess burden of disease. Each office advances community health through home visiting programs, free exercise programs, efforts to increase access to healthy food and meetings with area doctors.
Dr. Bassett has served at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation since 2009 as program director for the African Health Initiative, and more recently has led the Child Well-being Program. Both programs focus on strengthening systems to support health improvement.
Dr. Bassett grew up in New York City, received her BA in History and Science from Harvard University, and her MD from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. She served her medical residency at Harlem Hospital Center. Dr. Bassett has a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Washington. She has served for many years as an associate editor of the American Journal of Public Health.