Daines, former state health commissioner, dead at 60

"Dr. Daines worked tirelessly to improve the health of all New Yorkers, and his knowledge and deep f

Dr. Richard Daines, the innovative state health commissioner who left a lucrative private sector career to fight for public health issues including a battle against childhood obesity, is dead.

Daines died unexpectedly Saturday at home, two months after he stepped down from public office, said his spokeswoman, Claudia Hutton. He was 60.

Daines, a former Mormon missionary, led former Gov. David Paterson’s effort to create a “fat tax“ on soda that would fund programs to fight childhood obesity. The former Eagle Scout and Scout master waged his campaign in English and Spanish and included some of the first uses of YouTube by a state commissioner.

Before joining state government in 2007 as part of then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to bring what he called the best and brightest minds to Albany, Daines was chief executive of St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan.

In Albany, Daines promoted the development of primary care and patient-centered medical homes. He also created a new office in the department to focus on health information technology.

This month, Daines was to be a visiting scholar at the New York Academy of Medicine.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was saddened by the news.

“Dr. Daines worked tirelessly to improve the health of all New Yorkers, and his knowledge and deep faith has left a lasting impression on all those who worked with him,“ Cuomo said. “This is a tremendous loss not just for the state, but for the entire medical community.“

Daines was widely respected even as the two governors who appointed him were sunk by scandal. Spitzer resigned after a prostitution investigation in 2008, and Paterson left office Dec. 31 low in the polls after abandoning his run for a full term.

Daines graduated from Utah State University in 1974 and served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bolivia from 1970 to 1972. He attended Cornell University Medical College soon afterward and graduated in 1978.

Survivors include his wife, Linda; three children; and a grandson.

Categories: Schenectady County

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