“As my career grew, I discovered that public health is my passion,” Whalen said. Whalen has been the commissioner of Health for the Albany County Health Department since 2015. She was also a medical director at the county from 2003 – 2005; was a public health/preventive medicine resident at the New York State Department of Health/University at Albany; and a medical director for Medicaid at CDPHP. “I love my job. It’s been a busy year, and COIVD has opened up a lot about public health, and what we do,” Whalen explained.
“The Health Department has worked on tobacco cessation, reducing high blood pressure and creating more walkable parts of the county. We thank Dr. Whalen for all her work to improve the health of Albany County residents and are honored to present the Donald Led Duke Heart Hero Award to her.” “At countless press conferences, she calmly presented facts and explained why it’s important that we act in a manner that would keep us safe,” Corcoran Conway added. “She played an enormous role in Albany County’s efforts to vaccinate residents, and we are all proud that, as of this minute, 74.4% of Albany County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID. Before the pandemic, Dr. Whalen supported our Go Red for Women movement and other health initiatives. Much of the Albany County Health Department’s work aligns perfectly with the mission of the American Heart Association.
Named for Donald Led Duke, founder of BBL Construction, who died suddenly of a heart attack, the Donald Led Duke Heart Hero Award honors a community member who has made the Capital Region a better place to live. “Dr. Whalen has been a trusted voice throughout the pandemic,” Jennifer Corcoran Conway, partner at Tully Rinckey and chair of the Capital Region Board of Directors of the American Heart Association, said.
Whalen, whose father is an Albany ophthalmologist, discovered that she wanted to be a doctor halfway through her college career. Born in Ireland and raised in Albany, she attended the National University of Ireland in Galway. She did her residency at Albany Medical College. “I love the challenge of medicine, its intellectuality and the interaction with people,” Whalen said. “Racism is also a public health pandemic, and we need to continue to address disparities, even when COVID has passed. I know the Backyard Ball has a focus on uncontrolled high blood pressure, which disproportionately affects people of color. We need to address this and continue to focus on cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which also affect different communities at different rates,” Whalen noted.
“Health equity is part of the county’s mission,” Whalen remarked. Like the American Heart Association, Albany County is looking at inequities that COVID-19 exposed.
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