By Nolan Hicks
December 19, 2018 | 7:25pm
New York’s newly-minted Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, teared up Wednesday as she recalled her father’s tragic suicide and spoke about the importance of mental healthcare in her life.
“When I was nine years old, my father killed himself with a handgun,” Barbot said, tearing up as she struggled to get the words out at a Lower East Side press conference.
Mayor de Blasio — who also lost his father to suicide — put his arm around Barbot to comfort her as she discussed her tragic loss.
“No one in my family, or at my school talked about it,” she recalled. “Back in those days, those were the things that just weren’t talked about.”
The wrenching scene unfolded at the event where the mayor named Barbot as the city’s health chief.
She was formerly a top lieutenant in the department and helped to oversee the city’s response to the deadly opioid epidemic in the hard-hit South Bronx.
“When it comes to healthcare, the person all New Yorkers look to — and we’ve seen this in moments of crisis, all New Yorkers look to their health commissioner for the answers,” said de Blasio.
“It’s a really special moment when you can identify someone who has all the skills and abilities, all the experience, but also has the common touch.”
Barbot called the appointment a “great honor.”
De Blasio named her as the acting commissioner when the former commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, took a job at Harvard.
Barbot grew up in the Patterson Houses in The Bronx and will be city’s first Latina health commissioner. Before returning to New York in, she served as the top health official in Baltimore from 2010-2014.