Cooper’s Baston nominated to be next Health Commissioner

An expert in addiction services, she was driving force behind Center for Healing at Cooper

Dr. Kaitlan Baston, the division head of Addiction Medicine and Medical Director of the Center for Healing at Cooper University Health Care – a center she helped found – has been nominated by Gov. Phil Murphy to be the next health commissioner in the state.

Baston will assume the role in August, following the retirement of Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

Murphy said he was delighted to make the announcement.

“The Department plays a vital role in protecting the public’s health, while also promoting healthy communities and constantly improving the quality of health care for all New Jerseyans,” he said. “Dr. Baston’s breadth of experience as a physician, highlighted by her many leadership roles within the addiction and health care space, will make her an exceptional Commissioner at the Department of Health.”

Baston said she is humbled and honored.

“I am deeply grateful to Gov. Murphy for entrusting me with this opportunity to serve the people of New Jersey,” she said. “I have spent my career focused on addiction services, maternal and child health, and improving equity through health care in the community, and I am fully committed to using those experiences to create a healthy, equitable state for all. It is an honor to lead the Department following the incredible work and dedication of Commissioner Persichilli during an unprecedented time in public health and I look forward to working with the team to advance the health and equity of all New Jerseyans.”

Baston obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University, a Master of Science degree in neuroscience from Kings College London, and an M.D. from Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. She is also dual boarded in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine.

She was the driving force for the creation of the Center for Healing, where she serves as the addiction medicine and medical director. The center includes integrated pain, addiction, and behavioral health care; an inpatient addiction consult service; outpatient specialty clinics; a wrap-around perinatal substance use disorder program and undergraduate and graduate medical education in addiction medicine and research.

Baston is also an educator (she is an assistant professor of medicine at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University) and consultant for Zero to Three, an organization focused on ensuring all babies and toddlers have a strong start to life.

Cooper Co-CEO Kevin O’Dowd applauded the nomination.

“Dr. Kaitlan Baston is an exceptional leader who has dedicated her career to serving others, and this new position will allow her to make a positive impact on the health of people across New Jersey,” he said. “I commend Governor Murphy for this outstanding nomination.”

Persichilli also praised the selection.

“These past few years have also taught us many lessons, perhaps most importantly to pivot and change as we move forward,” she said. “The department is more prepared now than ever to face tomorrow’s challenges with a foundation built on resiliency, data-driven decision-making, and equity for New Jersey’s residents.

“Dr. Baston is eminently qualified to carry on the department’s critical work in tackling New Jersey’s public health crises and fulfilling its mission.”

Baston has served on many national level committees including the American Academy of Pediatrics Head Start National Expert Working Group the Facing Addiction Education Committee for National Addiction Curriculum, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Alliance for Innovation in Maternal Health Maternal Opioid Collaborative, and the National Symposium for Addiction Medicine at the White House.

She also is a member of several community boards and committees including the Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force, the Camden County Opioid Settlement Funds board, and the Advanced Practitioner Executive Committee.

Baston has received many awards for her work and most recently honored with the New Jersey Healthcare Innovation Hero Award (2022) and has been listed on the New Jersey Top Female Doctors (2018, 2020, 2022) and New Jersey Top Doctors (2017-2019, 2021, 2022) lists.