NEWARK, NJ - Gov. Phil Murphy intends to nominate University Hospital’s interim CEO and former monitor as commissioner of the state Department of Health. 

Judy Persichilli will essentially be swapping positions with the outgoing health commissioner, Shereef Elnahal. He was appointed to head the public hospital in May by the agency’s board of directors. 

“Judy is a true health care professional, with keen insight into managing health systems to enhance the public good,” said Murphy in a statement. “As Judy prepares to join my cabinet, I look forward to continuing the relationship we have built during her time as University Hospital Monitor, so she can apply her singular talents for the benefit of all New Jerseyans.”

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The governor, fed up with University’s failing Leapfrog grades and financial issues, last year appointed Perischilli to monitor the hospital

Persichilli issued a scathing report about the hospital shortly before she became its interim CEO. Former University Hospital President and CEO John Kastanis stepped down right before the report was released. 

“By bringing my deep experience in all aspects of health care to bear on improving the services the Department provides, I look forward to tackling the challenges that lay ahead and implementing the Governor’s agenda to build a New Jersey that stronger, fairer, and healthier,” said Persichilli in a statement. 

Persichilli would be the first registered nurse to hold the position of state health commissioner. She formerly headed CHE Trinity Health, Catholic Health East and St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton.

Elnahal, the outgoing health commissioner, is expected to begin his new role as president and CEO of the hospital no later than July 15.  

“With Ms. Persichilli’s selection, I cannot overemphasize how optimistic I am for the Department’s future,” said Elnahal in a statement. “Her record of accomplishments in health care speaks for itself — but I have also seen her in action as a dynamic and engaging leader. I have full confidence that she will carry the Governor’s health care priorities forward in an impactful way for New Jersey residents.”

Mayor Ras Baraka had also called for new leadership at University under Kastanis’ tenure when the state began to investigate the deaths of three premature babies who received care there. 

Murphy's nomination would have to go before a confirmation hearing in the state Senate Judiciary Committee. The nomination would then head to the Senate floor for a full vote. 

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