Noteworthy environmental specialist suspended by new DPH Director

Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, San Francisco’s top environmental health official, returned from vacation two weeks ago only to find that he’s been put on administrative leave.

Bhatia is well-respected among urban planners as an advocate of “health impact analyses” and a key developer of the “Healthy Development Measurement Tool.” The HDMT provides a range of policy and design strategies that can advance health conditions and resources via the development process. Every policy included in the Western SoMa Community Plan was examined from this perspective. 

“The Department [of Public Health] has still not provided me with any official word on the specific allegations nor their timeline for their investigation,” Bhatia told friends in an email circulating around town. According to Chronicle columnists Phil Matier and Andrew Ross, he is under investigation by the city attorney’s office for possible conflict of interest.

Bhatia continued, “I have examined my relationships with organizations that I work with and to the best of my knowledge, I have not done anything unethical.”

The American Public Health Association presented their 2012 Homer N. Calver Award to Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, Director of Occupational and Environmental Health for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. This annual award recognizes an environmental health professional who has made significant national contributions to the field and practice. This year’s Calver award recognized Dr. Bhatia’s decade-long leadership in broadening the scope of local environmental health practice to include the issues of sustainable land use and transportation, quality housing, worker rights, and equitable food systems.

Matier and Ross reported that “others in the health department tell us he’s one of several officials who have rubbed new Public Health Director Barbara Garcia the wrong way. It’s definitely the case that the agency’s top ranks have seen a big turnover since Garcia ascended to the top job in 2010.”

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