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


danny yates 9 months 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 10 months ago
Howard Sandroff 10 months 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 1 year 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 2 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 2 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 2 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

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