Thomas R. Frieden

Tom Frieden is Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City. He began his career as a community organizer in the Mississippi Delta region, helping a community health center increase its reach.  He then received his MD and MPH degrees at Columbia University, followed by internal medicine specialty training at Columbia and infectious disease fellowship at Yale.

Dr. Frieden then joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he worked for 12 years, initially as an Epidemiologic Intelligence Service Officer – a “disease detective” – investigating and controlling disease outbreaks in New York City.  At the height of NYC’s tuberculosis epidemic in 1992, he was named as Assistant Commissioner and Director of the Health Department’s tuberculosis control program.  By 1996, NYC had decreased the incidence of tuberculosis by nearly half and incidence of multi-drug resistant TB by more than 80%, becoming a national and global model for stopping tuberculosis.

Dr. Frieden’s success led him to India, where he worked for the next 5 years helping establish what is now the world’s largest effective tuberculosis program.  India’s program has now treated more than 6 million patients and saved more than a million lives.

Dr. Frieden was appointed Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, one of the world’s oldest and largest public health agencies, in January 2002.  Dr. Frieden implemented a comprehensive tobacco control program that has resulted in nearly 200,000 fewer smokers and will prevent approximately 60,000 premature deaths; established Take Care New York, a comprehensive health policy that targets the City’s most critical health problems; strengthened systems to monitor health status; and opened community-based Public Health Offices in Harlem, Central Brooklyn, and the South Bronx to improve health in the City’s sickest neighborhoods.

Dr. Frieden’s approach is to use data to drive decision making and improve health, particularly of those most in need.  This perspective is evident in the more than 150 articles he has written.

Source: University Programs and Events Planning Resources, January 2007