By Staff

BOSTON (CBS) – Monica Bharel, the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, will be stepping down from her current role on June 18. The announcement was made on Thursday by the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders.

Bharel was appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker as commissioner in 2015. As the head of the Department of Public Health, she has helped guide the state through COVID-19 pandemic.

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Bharel has also worked on curbing the opioid epidemic, vaping associated lung disease and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). She is the longest serving Commissioner of Public Health since 1997.

In a statement on Thursday, Bharel said working in her role as commissioner has been “an honor”, but felt it was “the right time to begin a new chapter”.

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“It has been an honor and privilege to serve residents of the Commonwealth as the state’s top physician and the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health,’’ said Bharel. “After serving in this role for more than six years, which is longer than any Public Health Commissioner has served in nearly a quarter of a century, it is the right time to begin a new chapter.’’

Sudders thanked her in a statement, saying her “tireless advocacy for the public health of all residents helped the Administration navigate the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic with compassion.”

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Margaret Cooke, who is currently serving as the department’s deputy commissioner, will serve as interim commissioner. Staff