Blakeman names new Nassau County health commissioner

Blakeman names new Nassau County health commissioner
Dr. Irina Gelman (center) was named Nassau's new health commissioner on Thursday by County Executive Bruce Blakeman (right). (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman announced that Dr. Irina Gelman, Orange County’s health commissioner, will serve as Nassau’s commissioner of health during a Thursday press conference.

Gelman, who led Orange County’s health department since 2018, is replacing Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein as Nassau’s health commissioner after 11 years in that role. Her salary will be $230,000, according to officials.

A graduate of PACE University and New York College of Podiatric Medicine, Gelman also earned her master’s in public health from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Before her time in Orange County, she served as the director of public health in Fulton County and vice president of the state Association of County Health Officials’ board of directors.

Gelman expressed her gratitude for Blakeman and the county offering her this new role during the press conference.

“It is truly an honor and a privilege to stand before you today,” Gelman said. “I definitely relish the opportunity and look forward to hitting the ground running.” 

Following months of advertising and going through a number of qualified candidates to replace Eisenstein, Blakeman said, county officials ultimately felt Gelman’s experience stood above the others.

“I consulted with the chair of the [county’s] board of health…and it was clear that Dr. Gelman was the right candidate.”

Blakeman said the county’s board of health unanimously approved Gelman. Their approval and Gelman’s credentials will now be reviewed by the state’s board of health. Blakeman said he is “absolutely confident” that they will approve the county’s recommendation of Gelman to serve as Nassau’s next health commissioner.

Serving Nassau’s community, Gelman said, was one of the main reasons she decided to accept the job as Eisenstein’s predecessor. Gelman said there is “still quite a bit of work to be done post-pandemic,” citing the need for all municipalities to focus on communication and preparedness for any other health crisis that may come along.

Eisenstein, who has served as the county’s health commissioner since 2011, told officials of his plans to resign in June.  Eisenstein will become Catholic Health’s vice president of community and public health and told Newsday that the new position will allow him to spend more time with his family.

Efforts to reach Eisenstein for further comment were unavailing.

Catholic Health is a Rockville Centre-based healthcare system comprised of 16,000 employees, six acute care hospitals (including St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn), three nursing homes, a home health service, hospice and a network of physician practices.

Eisenstein helped guide Nassau County through the coronavirus pandemic under former County Executive Laura Curran. Blakeman, on Thursday, lauded Eisenstein for his work prior to and throughout the pandemic.

“Obviously, I was sorry to see him go because we had a great chemistry working together,” Blakeman said. “I found him, not only to be a scientist, a physician but also someone who’s extremely practical and had good common sense.”

Eisenstein’s last day as Nassau’s health commissioner is July 29, according to officials.

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