NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo isn’t fighting Covid-19 alone: NY Health Chief Howard Zucker is New York’s hidden hero in the trenches.

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April 23, 2020 — Albany, NY — The Corning Tower is lit up with NY Tough at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

New York’s own Gov. Andrew Cuomo has risen in the ranks to become America’s Governor during the ongoing crisis of Covid-19. Cuomo’s compassion, competence and humanity have shined through as he has led the people of New York through the outbreak. His daily press briefings have become a source of hope and strength for people all across the U.S. and around the world.

But Gov. Cuomo couldn’t have served the people of New York and the U.S. so well without a team of well-qualified individuals who are just as committed to preserving lives and public health as Cuomo himself.

One of the key people steering New York’s handling of the crisis has been Dr. Howard A. Zucker, Commissioner of Health for New York State.

As Chief Physician of New York, Dr. Zucker has been closely advising Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the governor’s office has mapped out comprehensive strategies for medical testing and managed a team of hundreds of “health care detectives”.

It is Dr. Zucker’s job to communicate and coordinate with local, federal, and global health departments on updates and efforts to try to contain the spread of the virus.

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March 8, 2020 — New Hyde Park — Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, joined by State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and Northwell Health President and C.E.O. Michael Dowling, tours Northwell Health Imaging at the Center for Advanced Medicine on Long Island Sunday morning March 8, 2020. (Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

A native New Yorker, Dr. Zucker has appeared at almost all of Gov. Cuomo’s daily briefings, helping the Governor deliver cogent messages to the public on how New York has been working to understand, contain and overcome the virus. In one of his news conferences, Gov. Cuomo called Dr. Zucker is his “favorite doctor”.

“Dr. Zucker is uniquely qualified to be the focal point in this coronavirus pandemic, marshaling the state’s resources for testing, tracking and reporting.”

“This situation is a pivotal one where New York and the federal government are
cooperating, to date, in a constructive manner.”— Kemp Hannon, Senate Health Committee Chairman

Dr. Zucker’s resume proves he has been preparing for a public health crisis such as Covid-19 his entire working life.

Howard Zucker earned his M.D. from George Washington University School of Medicine at age 22, becoming one of America’s youngest doctors. Dr. Zucker is certified in six specialties/subspecialties: He trained in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital, anesthesiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, pediatric critical care medicine/pediatric anesthesiology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and pediatric cardiology at Children’s Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Zucker has also served as Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) in charge of Health Technology and Pharmaceuticals. During his tenure with the World Health Organization, Zucker was the highest ranked American at the WHO and led efforts to globally combat counterfeit medicine and utilize simple technologies to improve complex health problems for developing and industrialized nations.

Zucker developed the Afghan Family Health Book, a health literacy project that has since educated millions of women in Afghanistan. Dr. Zucker has traveled to Haiti on medical missions and has spoken extensively on global health challenges.

Nor are Dr. Zucker’s qualifications limited to medicine: Howard Zucker received a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law, an L.L.M. from Columbia Law School and a postgraduate diploma in global health policy from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

He has previously served as a White House Fellow and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health, where he developed the nation’s Medical Reserve Corps. While working in Washington, Dr. Zucker was involved with issues of regenerative medicine, the anthrax crisis, preventive health strategies and has worked on the development of the initial SARS preparedness plan.

Dr. Howard Zucker’s qualifications as health commissioner are unmatched by any other in the United States. His education and qualifications certainly could be useful in the private sector, where Zucker’s extensive medical and legal knowledge could likely generate a fortune. Yet Zucker has instead elected to use his knowledge to contribute to global and national public health initiatives as a public servant.

“I always felt if you can improve the life of others-whether an individual or many- you should,” Zucker said in an interview. “I learned practicing clinical medicine that I have to do everything possible…it’s our role in society.”

Indeed, Zucker has worked diligently to maintain the utmost standards for New Yorkers infected by the virus. On May 1, state health authorities shut down a Flatlands funeral home for storing bodies in several U-Haul trucks.

“Following an investigation by the State Department of Health, I issued an immediate suspension order to the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home in Brooklyn — whose actions were appalling, disrespectful to the families of the deceased, and completely unacceptable.” — State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.

After expressing his empathy and understanding with funeral homes struggling to keep up with the Covid-19 death toll, the health commissioner insisted that the businesses are still required to adhere to a basic set of proper standards.

“Funeral homes have a responsibility to manage their capacity appropriately and provide services in a respectful and competent manner. We understand the burden funeral homes are facing during this unprecedented time. That’s why the state previously issued an order allowing out of state funeral home directors to assist during this crisis and took steps to ease administrative hurdles.” — State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker

New York, the United States and the world aren’t out of the woods yet; Covid-19 continues to be a blight upon cities and communities everywhere.

But as long as New York has such competent and dedicated professionals as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NY Health Chief Howard Zucker serving the public good, New Yorkers couldn’t be in better hands.

(Contributing writer, Allegra Nokaj) (Contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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