Richard F. Daines, M.D., 14th Health Commissioner of New York State, Died Unexpectedly at his Farm in Dutchess County on Saturday

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 28, 2011) - Dr. Richard F. Daines, 60, who served as New York State's 14th Commissioner of Health from 2007-2010, passed away unexpectedly on Feb. 26 at his family's farm in Dutchess County. His death was announced by his wife, Linda.

He had recently joined the New York Academy of Medicine as a Visiting Scholar.

"This is a tremendous loss for New York State," said State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah, M.D. "Dr. Richard Daines was an extraordinary leader who worked tirelessly to advance health care and public health for all New Yorkers. He achieved many significant accomplishments as New York State Health Commissioner, including championing the fight against obesity, especially among children. Dr. Daines set a very high standard for future Health Commissioners, and he will be greatly missed."  

The son of a physician, Dr. Daines was devoted to the art, the practice and the teaching of medicine. He was raised in Utah, and earned a Bachelor of History degree from Utah State University in 1974.

He served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Bolivia from 1970 to 1972. He received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in 1978 and served a residency in internal medicine at New York Hospital. He was board certified in internal medicine.

He served as a physician in New York City for over 25 years. At St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, where he began practicing in 1978, his skills and compassion, coupled with his ability to speak Spanish, made him a valued member of the staff and a favorite among his patients. He became the Hospital's Senior Vice President for Professional Affairs and Medical Director in 1994.

In 2000, he became Medical Director at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he served as President and CEO from 2002 to 2007. He often worked shifts in the emergency department there to observe first hand the care patients received.

As State Health Commissioner, Dr. Daines managed a budget of more than $50 billion and a staff of 6,000. He was an architect of key state policies to increase coverage for uninsured New Yorkers, improve the safety and quality of health care, and achieve a high-performing health care system. Dr. Daines focused national attention on childhood obesity as a public health issue, and oversaw implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, also called the Berger Commission, to restructure institutional health care. He promoted the development of primary care and patient-centered medical homes, and established a new office in the State Health Department to focus on health information technology. A former Scoutmaster who was an Eagle Scout, Dr. Daines conducted physicals for scouts and promoted youth health throughout his life.

Dr. Daines took great pride in the skills and professionalism of health department employees, and enjoyed meeting with them and local public health workers at county health departments. He traveled to all 62 counties of New York state to promote local public health activities, often accompanied by his father, Newell. He particularly enjoyed seeing dairy farm operations, efforts to improve migrant worker health, and a memorable visit 400 feet under the Hudson River to check on public water tunnels. He publicly received an annual influenza vaccination to promote public vaccination. In his farewell message to health department employees, Dr. Daines quoted Hippocrates: "Art (of medicine) is long. Life is short, opportunity fleeting, experiment perilous, judgment difficult."

A devoted family man, he is survived by his wife of 36 years, Linda; his children William, Katherine and Andrew; his grandson Charles Richard; his parents, Dr. Newell and Jean Daines; his siblings Pamela Johnson, George Daines, Janet Stowell and Peter Daines; and many cousins, nieces and nephews.

A viewing will take place Tuesday, March 1, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, 1076 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 2, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 217 E. 87th St., New York.