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Former New Jersey Commissioner of Health Shereef Elnahal. (Photo: New Jersey Department of Health).

U.S. Senate confirms Elnahal to top Veterans health post

Ex-Murphy cabinet member gets strong bi-partisan support

By David Wildstein, July 21 2022 4:26 pm

The United States Senate today confirmed President Joe Biden’s nomination of  Dr. Shereef Elnahal as the  Under Secretary for Health of the Department of Veterans Affairs by a vote of 66-23.

Nineteen Republican senators voted in support of Elnahal’s confirmation, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Elnahal had served in Gov. Phil Murphy’s cabinet as New Jersey’s Commissioner of Health from 2018 to 2019, when he became president and CEO of University Hospital in Newark.

The 37-year-old Atlantic County native now returns to Washington, where he had served as chief  quality and safety officer of the Veterans Health Administration during the Obama administration.

A search for a new University Hospital president/CEO continues.  Mary Maples, Murphy’s former authorities unit director, is holding the post on an interim basis.

Elnahal is the first former state Health commissioner to serve in a sub-cabinet post since Dr. James R. Cowan, who held the post during the four years of Gov. William Cahill’s administration in the early 1970s.  President Richard Nixon nominated  Cowan to serve as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health and Environmental Services in 1974.

Another former Murphy cabinet member, Sue Fulton, serves as an Assistant U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs.   She headed the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission.

Biden initially nominated Fulton as an Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense, but withdrew the pick after Fulton was unable to get confirmed by the Senate after more than a year.  She instead got the Veterans post, which didn’t require Senate approval.

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