Medscape at 25: Recognizing Medicine's Rising Stars

Becky Lang


December 07, 2020

Shereef Elnahal, MD, MBA, is the president and CEO of University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, and a clinical associate professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. He previously served as the chief quality and safety officer of the Veterans Health Administration in the Obama administration. He is also the former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and a former White House Fellow.

As New Jersey's health commissioner a few years ago, Shereef Elnahal, MD, MBA, fell in love with Newark. It was a place he found himself often, he says, because it's got the most pressing health needs in the state.

So when he had the chance to become president and CEO of University Hospital in Newark, he dove in.

"Leading the hospital through the worst crisis in its history has been simultaneously hard but very fulfilling and rewarding," Elnahal says of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Sometimes it takes a crisis ... to accelerate change that's long overdue, from population health to health equity and even financial improvements," he says. "We've been forced to learn quickly and implement quickly."

He has leaned on his medical and business degrees, earned in 2012 at Harvard University, as well as his time as chief quality and safety officer at the Veterans Health Administration during the Obama administration.

His work at the VA "really has shaped a lot of what I'm doing here; it was the first experience of operationalizing improvement at scale."

At the hospital in Newark, he says a new program training chaplains as community health workers is helping patients navigate the healthcare system. Next, the hospital is about to launch an expansion that will integrate the chaplain program with the hospital's EMS, to help patients during the pandemic and to assist them with follow-through and self-management at home.

The hospital will track the outcomes and will scale up the program more if it's successful.

"Even though the pandemic has been extremely difficult, not only for our patients but for the hospital, ... all of that has made us stronger," Elnahal says. "I couldn't be more optimistic about the future."

As part of Medscape's celebration of our 25th anniversary this year, we're recognizing 25 young physicians who are rising stars in medicine, poised to become future leaders of their fields. View the full list here.


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