Meet the infectious disease specialist behind Boston's recent public health decisions - freetxp

Meet the infectious disease specialist behind Boston’s recent public health decisions

Now, at least, COVID rates are trending downward again. As a result, Ojikutu last week recommended to Boston’s Board of Health to drop the city’s mask mandate in settings such as restaurants, gyms and theaters.

“There have been successfully fewer hospitalizations, so … we think it’s OK to lift that requirement,” Ojikutu said. “We [still] recommend masking. We’re not requiring it.”

She knows the city’s stance has been controversial. Earlier this year, Boston imposed a proof-of-vaccination requirement at restaurants and event venues; it was also one of the last cities to lift an indoor mask mandate for businesses. She said city officials engaged the business community in this process, including through Mayor Michelle Wu’s COVID-19 advisory committee.

Ojikutu, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospitalwas appointed to the job last summer, taking over for Rita Nieveswho retired last summer when Kim Jane was mayor. Wu elevated Ojikutu’s post to a Cabinet-level position in the fall, around the time she won the mayoral election.

As executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, Ojikutu oversees a budget of more than $160 million and a 1,200-person workforce. Infectious disease is just one focus for the agency, whose services include violence prevention, environmental health, and support for the homeless. Ojikutu hopes the city’s medical community can learn from the cooperative approach taken for the pandemic, to better collaborate on a range of health issues. Among those: addressing burnout in a medical workforce that has been stretched to the max.

For her part, she has been pleasantly surprised by Wu’s willingness to follow the data around COVID-19′s spread despite the blowback the mayor received at times.

“I’ve talked in such detail with my colleagues across the country who are struggling, who are frustrated,” Ojikutu said. “I do really appreciate the mayor’s leadership in regard to the pandemic.”

For Martin, another new gig

Ralph Martin likes to say he has had an “intentionally peripatetic career.” Now Martin is moving on to another new chapter.

Martin joined the law firm of Prince Lobel Ty last week after wrapping up an 11-plus-year tenure as chief legal officer at Northeastern University, the “longest I’ve been anywhere,” he said. His previous jobs included managing partner at what was then Bingham McCutchenand a decade as Suffolk County District Attorney.

When Northeastern president Joseph Aoun Essentially offered him the job over a meal at the now-shuttered Hamersley’s Bistro in the South End, Martin thought he might stay at the university for three to five years.

He was wrong about that. He finally approached Aoun about retiring in January 2021, saying he wanted to leave at the end of the year. He really enjoyed the job’s dynamic nature. But it was time to dial it back a bit. (Mary Strother replaced him as Northeastern’s top lawyer two months ago.)

Martin said he received several job overtures. But he didn’t want to return to a big firm. So Martin jumped at the opportunity when longtime friend Walter Prince, partner at Prince Lobel Tye, suggested he come on board. One big selling point: the firm’s emphasis on diversity. (Prince and Martin are two of the most prominent Black lawyers in Boston.)

It will start out as a part-time affiliation, with a focus on white-collar defense and public-private partnerships, Martin said.

“I hope not to re-create the on-demand, all-the-time existence that I had at Northeastern,” Martin said. “But I definitely hope to be busy.”

Buckingham heading out on her own

Ginny Buckingham’s Delta shuttle days are over.

Buckingham retired from a corporate affairs job at drugmaker Pfizer A year ago, a role that required her to hit the shuttle from Logan Airport to New York, home to Pfizer’s headquarters, on a typical Monday.

Now, Buckingham is launching a public affairs consultancy called Goldthwait Advisors, named after a nearby beach in her hometown of Marblehead. Buckingham will be working for herself this time. Her long and varied career included jobs as an editorial writer at the Boston Herald in the 2000s and as press secretary for then-governor Bill Weld in the 1990s. Her most high-profile gig was running the Massachusetts Port Authority; she resigned after two of the hijacked planes on 9/11 came from Logan.

Buckingham recently recounted her experiences around that event in her memoir, “On My Watch,” which she published in 2020.

With Goldthwait Advisors, she will look to provide advice to senior executives in the nonprofit and private sectors.

“I’ve been on every side of the table in debates: the government side, the media side covering it, the private sector side,” Buckingham said. “I would like to work with clients who have a story to tell … but don’t know how to put all those pieces together.”

One big plus about the new venture: She only needs to walk downstairs to get to work now. “It’s a better commute, for sure,” Buckingham said.

Helping doctors become executives

The path to becoming a great doctor is well-trodden: medical school, then a residency, then a fellowship, followed by years of hard work. But the path to becoming a great doctor who is also a great hospital executive isn’t so clear-cut.

Jay Rudermanpresident of the Ruderman Family Foundationhopes to address this quandary at the state’s biggest hospital, Mass. General. The foundation has awarded $3 million over three years to create a leadership program there. The money will go toward classes and other forms of executive training, and will subsidize two cohorts of 15 to 20 physicians apiece, for an 18-month program. (The $200 million foundation typically gives out $10 million to $20 million annually, with a historical focus on disability rights.)

Ruderman said he was initially approached by Dr. David Finn, medical director at Mass. General, about the idea. Finn will lead the program alongside Dr. Ami Bhatt and Dr. Aleena Banerji.

“I expect the next president of Mass. General will come out of the program,” Ruderman said. “Maybe presidents of other hospitals will come out of this program.”

Not only does Ruderman hope executives will emerge from this program to leave and run other hospitals, he hopes it could provide a model for other hospitals to follow.

“Our interest in philanthropy is always to do something new,” Ruderman added, “something that breaks new ground, but can be used outside the institutions that we’re investing in.”

Putting the ssss in Sauvignon Blanc

Just when you thought Elizabeth Banks‘s role at Boston’s wine-in-a-can business, Archer Roose, couldn’t get crazier, now there are snakes involved. Last time we saw Banks, in an online video ad for Archer Roose, she had moved into CEO Marian Leitner-Waldman’s place and had taken a stake in the company. (Archer Roose says that latter part is true.)

Now, it’s time for Banks to promote the company’s loyalty program.

So the folks at Boston ad agency Colossus scripted a video in which Banks sat in front of a fire and held a wriggling serpent, while promising to mail a live snake to anyone who bought 100,000 cases of wine. “You deserve a snake of your dreams,” she deadpanned.

Five days later, another video. With a straight face, she said Archer Roose realized that mailing out live snakes, especially poisonous ones, violated various state and federal regulations; Archer Roose replaced the free-snake giveaway with a “reptile-free” loyalty program. “We apologize for the inconvenience,” she said. “And also for the snakes.”


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @johnchesto.

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