Dr. Monica Bharel: Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health

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BOSTON—Dr. Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, became Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) in February this year. As Commissioner, she is responsible for spearheading the state’s response to the opioid crisis, as well as leading the Department’s implementation of health care cost containment legislation, reducing health disparities, finding public health solutions for health care reform, finding innovative solutions using data and evidence-based practices, and other health care quality improvement initiatives.

Dr. Bharel comes to DPH widely recognized for her dedication to health care for underserved and vulnerable populations, including ensuring that state and national health care reform efforts enhance the care for homeless individuals, without inadvertently widening health care disparities.

She previously served as the Chief Medical Officer of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, the largest nonprofit health care organization for homeless individuals in the country. Under her leadership, the organization provided health care to over 12,500 homeless men, women and children in the greater Boston area at over 70 different sites.

Dr. Bharel has served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, Boston University Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health. She was previously at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Medical Center. She has practiced general internal medicine for 20 years in neighborhood health centers, city hospitals, the Veterans Administration, university hospitals and nonprofit organizations.

INDIA New England News: Please tell readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?
Dr. Monica Bharel: I am honored to serve as the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The mission of the department is to promote wellness and health equity for all people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This is in line with my personal vision of helping to improve health for vulnerable populations. I came to this position in Feb after spending over a decade working with Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, most recently as the Chief Medical Officer. This work gives me the opportunity to advocate for underserved populations and give a voice to those who do not have one.

INE: What are your hobbies and interests?
MB: When I am not working I dedicate my time to my family, including my young children and husband. Together we like to travel, cook and stay active. I am also an avid amateur photographer.

INE: What is your positive influence?
MB: I feel very lucky to be able to do the work that I do. I do not see this as work but as a life’s calling to first be a medical doctor and offer assistance at an individual patient level and now use that knowledge in the halls of bureaucracy to influence policies that can have a larger impact.

At a local community level I am hopeful that my work can inspire the next generation of Indian Americans, especially young girls, to find a way to give back to their local communities and beyond.

INE: Your rare talent?
MB: I don’t think this is a rare talent in this day and age but I am an excellent multi-tasker! I can be on a work call, me helping me kids with their homework and have dinner cooking on the stove all at the same time!

INE: Your favorite books?
MB: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.

INE: Your Favorite Quotes?
MB: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.

INE: Who inspires you the most?
MB: My dad who taught his children to work hard, value family and elders and be persistent. Also, my patients who have shown me the true nature of the human spirit in their capacity to show dignity and display hope and kindness under the most trying circumstances.

INE: The core value you try to live by?
MB: Compassion, kindness and humility.

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