Undersecretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs: Who Is David Shulkin?

Monday, March 30, 2015

David J. Shulkin was nominated by President Barack Obama on March 18, 2015, to lead the Veterans Health Administration. It would be the first government post for Shulkin, a physician and hospital executive.


Shulkin was born June 22, 1959, and is from Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, where his father Mark was a psychiatrist. David’s sister, Nedra, later became a psychologist .


Shulkin attended Hampshire College, graduating in 1982 with a B.A. in science. He returned to Philadelphia to attend medical school at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, earning his M.D. in 1986. Shulkin did his internship at Yale, and then his residency in internal medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, where his father had also done his residency. While at Pitt, he met the woman who would become his wife, Merle Bari, who was doing her residency in dermatology at the time. When Shulkin finished his residency a year before Bari, he remained at Pitt and studied business administration, which turned out to be excellent training for his career. In 1990-1991 he also was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, studying the increasing cost of health care. He researched why doctors made the decisions they did and tried to use that to improve efficiency and outcomes in large healthcare organizations.


Shulkin remained in Philadelphia, becoming chief medical officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System in 1990. In 1999, he started an online site, DoctorQuality.com, where patients could check their physicians’ backgrounds for quality and safety.


He returned to healthcare management in 2002 when he was named chief quality officer for the Drexel University College of Medicine and chief medical officer for the Medical College of Pennsylvania. He was also co-founder and president of the nonprofit Patient Safety Officer Society,


In March 2004 Shulkin became chief medical officer of Temple University Hospital and the following year was named president and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, posts he held for four years


Shulkin’s work has frequently involved looking at managed and accountable care, in which patients, especially the chronically ill, get the right care at the right time, while avoiding unnecessary duplication of services and preventing medical errors. In 2008, for example, he studied why patients who are admitted at night are more likely to die than patients admitted during the day. Also in 2008 he edited the book Questions Patients Need to Ask: Getting the Best Healthcare.


Since July 2010, Shulkin has been president of the Morristown (N.J.) Medical Center, which is part of Atlantic Health System. One of his innovations there was to champion 24-hour visiting hours for its healing effect on patients.


Shulkin is heavily involved with Atlantic Health System, as he is president not just of Morristown Medical Center, but of Goryeb Children’s Hospital and Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute, as well as Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization and Atlantic Health organization Primary Care Partners, and he is principal shareholder in Practice Associates.


Shulkin and Bari have two children, Daniel and Jennifer. Daniel is also involved in health care administration.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Official Biography

LinkedIn Profile

A Story of Three Generations in Health Care (by Daniel B. Shulkin, Mark W. Shulkin and David J. Shulkin, AMA Journal of Ethics)

Like Night and Day — Shedding Light on Off-Hours Care (by David J. Shulkin, New England Journal of Medicine)

Selected Publications


Alex Hill 6 years ago
Dear Secretary Shulkin, You and I met last year at a business breakfast in Gladwyne. At the time, I mentioned that my father, James Joseph H. Hill, was a veteran and a recipient of benefits. My dad is now 95 years old and served as a carrier pilot in World War II. He is now in an assisted living facility in Blue Bell, PA. Shortly after meeting with you, I completed paperwork to get him some assistance in paying for his caregivers. I completed the paperwork in May of 2017 and faxed the pages to 1.844.531.7818. Because of my father's condition, I asked that all correspondence go through me. I included VA Form 21-0845 in the fax package. Months later I called for a status update and learned that only a portion of the fax was received and no work had been done on his claim. (My fax confirmation reads that the proper amount of pages was sent.) I faxed the missing pages again and reapplied for Third Party Authorization. Once I was cleared for Third Party Authorization, I was informed that there were still missing pages. This time, I was given an address in Janesville, WI. The envelope went out via USPS Certified mail. Today, while checking once again, I learned that VA Form 21-2680 is missing from his file. This document is central to his claim. As I mentioned above, Dad is 95 years old. While we all hope that he will live on forever, that is certainly not the prognosis. Is there a way to speed up the vetting process? I am more that willing to travel to Washington, DC for the opportunity to meet face to face with a representative. While the customer service personnel has been respectful and appreciative of his service to our country, it is frustrating to deal with a different individual each month and fine that the status remains "Gathering of Evidence". Please let me know if you can point me in a more productive direction. Best regards, Alex
maggie bartholomew 6 years ago
What ever happened with the investigation with the private flight you and your wife took to France at tax payers expense. Funny thing Mr. Sulkin your still got a job, how sad
danny yates 7 years ago
I would like to know why I cannot get travel pay to las vegas for the the choice program. I had a severe problem that was not treated correctly at the VA in las veges, and it finally ended up that I had to get IV antibiotics administered by my wife at home months later for a severe infection. I had to make trips to las vegas and could not take care of this in Arizona my home state. I have just been notified that I can not get travel pay to the tune of 1500$. was encouraged by the VA to use the choice program. I do not understand. Please comment.
James U. Reid Sr 7 years ago
Howard Sandroff 7 years ago
Dr. Shulkin, I bear you no ill will nor do I question your sincere interest in the health of veterans. However, as a Veteran myself (USAF 1967-71) I am astonished that Trump would appoint a non-veteran to the post, Secretary of the VA. Of course once you received news of your appointment you should have rose to the occasion and declined the appointment because you never served in the US Armed Forces. Its not too late, do the right thing, resign and instruct the president that the head of the VA absolutely should be a Vet, how else can we vets believe that the agency has our best interests at heart
Carl Wayne Stewart 8 years ago
The inappropriate and disruptive conduct of officers and employees threat and risk to the veterans health and safety of determinations being made by physicians of the eligibility of the veteran for the services upon applying for care at the medical centers and regional offices employees making official decisions outside official channells,is a problem that the veterans are reporting to VAOIG only to have the inspectors or investigator present a concern of no importance as timeliness in getting an appointment when those veterans have not developed a treating record, is a grave disservice to the veteran and the administration.
Frances Prater 8 years ago
My husband is veteran at Colorado Eastern Healthcare system in Alamoso Colorado. I need your help in addressing my concerns that my husband is being denied pain medication because he uses medical marijuana for breath thru pain. Dr. Vernado who was his PCP at the VA (but quit 6-2015) was aware and had no objections from a clinical ground point of view. Now Mr. Flores NP has forced my husband to choose despite of what Dr. Petzel's letter and lastest VA policy in 2010. All veterans are being treated like this. I feel this is discrimination against my husband. Please help!. Thks.
Jason 9 years ago
Christine Frank, I have been doing a lot of research on this and I know what part of your problem is... I hope you get this message. My email is j1983dh@gmail dot com Jason
christine frank 9 years ago
I would like to share my story with the public: I served the military from 1999-2006. While I was in the military I developed a terrible disease (crohns and IBS). I was medically discharged and awarded 100% disability. Sounds fair, right? For ten years I have lived off of that money as I cannot work. Stress makes my pain crippling, and these past few years I've been under a lot - my brother committed suicide, my mother had 9 strokes and is currently in a nursing home but this next tragedy is worse... on many different levels. The VA decided to lower my disability to 0% - I have no idea what to do, I seriously can not work, the pain in my belly has taken over my life. - I used to trust the VA, the doctors I see at the VA are so good to me. They understand that i'm falling apart. I just don't understand why the VA turned their backs on me. its hard enough for me to live with this condition, and now I have to fight to take care of my kids. the world needs to know that I am not the only vet that has been brushed away

Leave a comment