Dr. Elnahal to serve as first Muslim-American commissioner in NJ’s history 

Trenton – Governor-elect Murphy today announced the nomination of Dr. Shereef Elnahal as Commissioner of the Department of Health. Dr. Elnahal, if confirmed, will serve as the first Muslim-American Cabinet member in the history of New Jersey.

“We need strong leadership in the Department of Health that recognizes and understands the challenges we face across our state – improving the quality and delivery of care and closing coverage gaps, restoring funding for the women’s health programs that have been zeroed-out for the past eight years, helping close the out-of-network loopholes that erode affordability, and ensuring a fair and equitable system of charity care that our urban and safety net hospitals need and rely upon,” Governor-elect Murphy said. “The commissioner must remain vigilant given the winds blowing up from Washington. New Jersey must be a leader in fighting against current and future efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act. And, with the failure of the Congressional Republican leadership to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, vital care for 230,000 New Jersey kids is in danger of disappearing altogether. I am confident that Dr. Elnahal has the experience necessary to tackle these pressing issues and fight for New Jersey residents. It is my great honor to announce his nomination as the next Commissioner of the Department of Health.”

The Department of Health is tasked with strengthening New Jersey’s health system. The Department operates in four branches: Public Health Services, Health Systems, Integrated Health, Office of Population Health, and the Office of Policy and Strategic Planning.

“The health challenges that many of New Jersey’s residents face could not be more urgent,” Dr. Elnahal said. “Too many in New Jersey are afflicted with opioid addiction and other serious health conditions, with recovery so hard for themselves and their loved ones. Too many of our state’s residents who depend on mental health care find it difficult to get the support they need from qualified health professionals, not to mention other resources that our state could be offering them.  And too many New Jerseyans struggle to pay medical bills—whether it’s high monthly insurance premiums or surprise, out-of-pocket costs. 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.”

Dr. Elnahal, 32, is a native of southern New Jersey, growing up in Linwood and Galloway Township.

“New Jersey means so much to my family,” Dr. Elnahal added. “When my parents immigrated to the United States from Egypt, they chose to settle in South Jersey, and that is where they spent their entire professional lives treating fellow residents of Atlantic County. It is there that they raised our family, and where I learned the true meaning of family, community, state, and patriotism.”

Dr. Elnahal currently serves as the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Quality, Safety, and Value at the US Department of Veterans Affairs. In this role, he has led the department’s efforts in transparency, posting wait times and care delivery data for every hospital and clinic.  He was initially appointed to VA by President Barack Obama as a White House Fellow in 2015, and in this capacity he founded the Diffusion of Excellence Initiative, the major initiative establishing consistency in clinical care delivery and best practices. He has authored many publications on health care quality, operations management, and patient safety. Shereef co-developed a published methodology that doubled clinic efficiency in the Johns Hopkins Pancreatic Multidisciplinary Clinic, cutting patient wait times by half. As an operations consultant for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, he expanded on this work to improve care access for veterans and active duty service members.

Dr. Elnahal is a Fellow in the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, and served as Chair of the House Staff Patient Safety and Quality Council at Hopkins. He also served on advisory boards for two firms focused on patient education and clinical operations. His civic contributions earned him the 2015 National Quality Scholar Award from the American College of Medical Quality. Shereef received a dual-degree M.D. and M.B.A. with Distinction from Harvard University. He also graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.