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Fountain House Appoints New President & CEO
Public Health Expert and Advocate for Social Justice, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, to Lead World-Renowned Mental Health Organization
Tuesday, September 3, 2019. Fountain House is pleased to announce the appointment of Ashwin Vasan, M.D., Ph.D., as its new President and CEO. Dr. Vasan’s expertise in public health policy and political and social advocacy on a local and global level will advance Fountain House’s work around mental illness, homelessness, criminal justice, healthcare, and social welfare for marginalized people and communities. Dr. Vasan will start on September 9th, 2019.
A primary care physician, academic, and public servant committed to improving the lives of vulnerable people, Dr. Vasan is currently an Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons, caring for patients and teaching graduate students and trainees in general medicine, population health, and implementation science. He will maintain his academic affiliation with Columbia while leading Fountain House.
Early in his career, Dr. Vasan worked at the non-profit, Partners In Health, and at the World Health Organization (WHO) to increase access to HIV/AIDS treatment in the global South. He spent time in Rwanda and Lesotho during his tenure with Partners In Health, focusing on HIV, health systems and strengthening primary care delivery. As the founding Executive Director of the Health Access Equity Unit at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, he led the first municipal health department program focused explicitly on the intersection of health, clinical systems, and the social welfare needs of marginalized populations, including people living with mental illness involved in the justice system.
Retiring Fountain House President, Kenneth J. Dudek, who leaves a legacy of 28 years, says, “Fountain House could not have found a more qualified candidate to take the reins at this moment in time. Governments and advocates alike are beginning to understand the importance of serious mental illness. Ashwin has the passion, talent, and experience to lead Fountain House in this pursuit of human rights and social justice. Our members are fortunate to have an advocate and visionary crusader of his caliber.”
“Fountain House has a model that over 70 years has proven time and again to redirect people’s trajectories and to improve outcomes. It is an approach that elevates the dignity of those whom we often so easily cast aside. I want to keep intact what makes this organization great, and what has prompted hundreds of others to replicate it around the world, while building a movement that elevates these issues and our model in corridors of power,” explains Dr. Vasan.
“We have a powerful opportunity to confront the legacy of deinstitutionalization of our mental health system. Individuals with mental illness and serious mental illness are too-often relegated to jails, shelters, emergency rooms, or left on the streets in lieu of having access to the kind of healing, dignified environments, and services provided by Fountain House. We have an opportunity - and a responsibility - to push our public and private sectors alike to invest in proven community systems of care that promote recovery and allow people with mental illness experience dignified lives. I am proud that we can openly advocate and stand up for the rights of people with mental illness. I have stood up for these kinds of human rights and for social justice my entire professional career and will continue to do so at Fountain House,” says Dr. Vasan.
William Hilburn, Chair of the Fountain House Board of Directors, said, "We are delighted to welcome Ashwin as the next President and Chief Executive Officer. Fountain House and its community system of care represent an innovative and successful model for helping people with serious mental illness live healthier and more productive lives. Ashwin is the ideal candidate to take the organization forward into its eighth decade and next phase.”