Governor-elect Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that he will nominate Shereef Elnahal, a doctor and Department of Veteran Affairs official, to be New Jersey’s next health commissioner.
Elnahal, 32, would be the first Muslim-American cabinet member in New Jersey history if confirmed by the state Senate, according to Murphy’s transition team. He is currently assistant deputy under Secretary for Health for Quality, Safety and Value at the VA.
The Department of Health is charged with strengthening the state’s health system and has five branches: Public Health Services, Health Systems, Integrated Health, Office of Population Health and the Office of Policy and Strategic Planning.
In a statement, Murphy said the department must work to improve the quality and delivery of health care, restore funding for women’s health programs cut by Gov. Chris Christie and ensure a “fair and equitable system” of charity care for uninsured or underinsured residents, among other priorities. He added the next health commissioner must “remain vigilant given the winds blowing up from Washington” by fighting Republican efforts to scrap the Affordable Care Act.
“I am confident that Dr. Elnahal has the experience necessary to tackle these pressing issues and fight for New Jersey residents,” Murphy said. “It is my great honor to announce his nomination as the next commissioner of the Department of Health.”
Elnahal, who grew up in Linwood and Galloway Township, was appointed to the VA as a White House Fellow by former President Barack Obama in 2015. There, he founded the Diffusion of Excellence Initiative, which established consistency in clinical care delivery and administrative best practices, according to his biography on the VA’s website. He received a dual-degree—M.D. and M.B.A.—with distinction from Harvard University.
“The health challenges that many of New Jersey’s residents face could not be more urgent,” Elnahal said in a statement, listing opioid addiction and exorbitant health care costs as top issues. “I look forward to working with Governor-elect Murphy as we begin the difficult and necessary work of strengthening New Jersey’s health systems, and ensuring no New Jerseyan slips through the cracks.”
Murphy has continued to fill out his cabinet with less than a week left until he is sworn into office next Tuesday.
He announced this Tuesday that he will nominate Robert Asaro-Angelo, a former U.S. Labor Department official and ex-executive director of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, as his choice to lead the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Last Friday, Murphy tapped Douglas Fisher to stay as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Gary Lanigan to remain Commissioner of the Department of Corrections.