University Hospital names Elnahal its CEO; health commissioner will leave Murphy administration

The University Hospital board of directors voted Wednesday afternoon to approve state Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal as the Newark medical center’s new CEO and president.

Elnahal was one of at least three finalists and was expected to be named, several sources previously told ROI-NJ.

Sources familiar with Elnahal’s thinking but who were not authorized to speak publicly said he was interested in the Newark-based position — after being approached to apply — because of the amount of time he was already spending on the hospital.

University Hospital’s board voted to install Elnahal, who will replace interim CEO Judith Persichilli, on July 15.

In a statement Wednesday, Elnahal said he was excited for the new role.

“It’s been my greatest honor to serve in the (Gov. Phil) Murphy administration,” he said.

During my tenure, we accomplished much to advance the governor’s agenda for social justice in health: restoring funding for women’s health care to reach over 10,000 additional women, serving thousands of women of color to target black infant and maternal mortality, setting the foundation for the state’s public health approach to the opioid epidemic, improving the state’s psychiatric hospitals, helping to preserve the gains New Jersey has made with the Affordable Care Act and overseeing the largest expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program in its history.”

Elnahal said he intends to revive the community’s trust in the hospital, which was recently damaged by its handling of virus outbreaks and infections.

Gov. Phil Murphy, who appointed Elnahal to the commissioner role, expressed his support for the decision.

University Hospital
University Hospital in Newark.

“It is bittersweet to see Dr. Elnahal leave the Department of Health for his new role as the CEO of University Hospital,” he said in a statement.

“Over the past year and a half, Shereef has proven again and again that he was the perfect choice for our administration’s first commissioner of health. Whether it was guiding the state through a troubling viral outbreak, working with the first lady to tackle maternal health disparities or ensuring that more patients than ever before will have access to medical marijuana, he has made us proud. While I am sad to see him leave the Department of Health, I am immensely happy to see him continue his service to the people of New Jersey and some of our most underserved residents at University Hospital.”

University Hospital board Chair Tanya Freeman thanked Persichilli for her work and welcomed Elnahal.

“We are confident that his strong leadership and creativity will be the driving force necessary to continue the momentum we have begun to develop over the last several months as we craft a strategic plan for the future,” she said. “The board is also deeply grateful to the selfless work of Judy Persichilli during this transition period. She has brought a culture of transparency and gratitude to the leadership team that is felt by our patients, employees, and community.”

Health Care Quality Institute CEO Linda Schwimmer also expressed her support for the choice.

“I’ve worked with Dr. Elnahal since we served as co-chairs of Gov. Murphy’s health transition team,” she said in a statement.

“I’ve seen firsthand his incredible energy and commitment to quality, safety and equity in health care. He’s a strong and compassionate leader who will be a trusted partner for the Newark community. Dr. Elnahal’s experience at the (Veterans Administration) and New Jersey Department of Health will help him create and execute a vision for the future of University Hospital and its role as a patient-centered research and teaching hospital. It’s an inspired selection. The state was also lucky to have someone of Judy Persichilli’s caliber and experience willing to step in and take the helm during such a challenging time in the history of University Hospital.”

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