PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
April 2, 2018

Shereef Elnahal

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Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Dr. Shereef Elnahal Sworn in by Governor Murphy as 21st Health Commissioner

Announces five new members of leadership team

TRENTON –Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal was administered the oath of office today by Governor Phil Murphy. He also announced five new members of the Department’s leadership team.


“I am honored that Governor Murphy has chosen me to lead the Department of Health,” said Elnahal. “It is a tremendous responsibility. But with a new leadership team and a Governor who has already guided the Department to make progress on the state’s most pressing health issues, such as restoring women’s health funding and significantly expanding access to medicinal marijuana, I am confident that we will be successful on behalf of New Jersey residents.”


As we mark National Public Health Week and Minority and Multicultural and Health Month, Dr. Elnahal noted that reducing disparities in public health outcomes—including lead, diabetes, black infant and maternal mortality—is top priority for the Department and the Murphy Administration.


The son of physicians who grew up in Atlantic County, Dr. Elnahal joined the Department in January after serving in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Quality, Safety, and Value. He received a dual-degree M.D. and M.B.A. with Distinction from Harvard University, and graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.


Since joining the Department in January, Dr. Elnahal has traveled around the state visiting hospitals and rehabilitation centers to emphasize the need for health care workers to get flu shots, and has meet with health care leaders, county public health officials, community groups and other stakeholders. In addition to reforming the medicinal marijuana program and reducing disparities, the Commissioner’s other priorities are eradicating the opioid epidemic, enhancing access and quality of mental health care, improving the state’s psychiatric hospitals and increasing access to health care by making covering more affordable in New Jersey.


Today, Commissioner Elnahal announced additions to the Department’s leadership team including the appointment of a new Deputy Commissioner, a Director of Policy and Strategic Planning, an Assistant Commissioner for Medicinal Marijuana, a Director of Legislative Services, and a Director of Health Care Finance.


Deputy Commissioner Deborah Hartel, of Clifton, joins the Department from St. Joseph’s Health, where she served as Administrative Director of Behavioral Health.  She will oversee the Integrated Health Services branch, which includes the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Division of Community Health Services. 


She previously worked as Vice President of Mental Health at St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic and received a master’s degree in Social Work from Fordham University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Upsala College in East Orange.


Magda Schaler-Haynes is Director of Policy and Strategic Planning and has worked in health law, politics and policy for over 20 years. Prior to joining the Department, she served: as Special Advisor for health care and women's issues to U.S. Senator Robert Menendez; on New York's health reform team as Senior Health Policy Advisor at the New York State Insurance Department; as Amicus Manager at the Center for Reproductive Rights; as an independent consultant to diverse clients on matters regarding constitutional law and public health, health reform, health care and plan regulation and gender equality; and as an Associate in the Health Care Group at the Proskauer law firm in New York. Magda is Adjunct Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University, where she has taught Public Health Law and reproductive health policy since 2008.  She holds JD and MPH degrees from Columbia University and a BA from Brandeis University. Magda lives in Montclair with her husband and three children.


Assistant Commissioner for Medicinal Marijuana Jeff Brown worked as Vice President of Policy at the Hospital Alliance of New Jersey. He previously worked as Executive Director of the QI Collaborative, Chief of Staff for the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, and Policy and Communications Director for NJ Citizen Action. He received his bachelor’s degree in English from Rutgers University.


Legislative Services Director Maria Del Cid-Kosso worked as Chief of Staff for Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry B. Green, who represents the 22nd Legislative District and Chairs the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. She holds an associate’s degree in Psychology from Union County College and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Political Science from Seton Hall University. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Public Policy at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University. 


Office of Healthcare Finance Director Robin Cincotta Ford worked as the lead fiscal analyst at the New Jersey Office of Legislative Affairs, and previously worked as Director of Prevention Services at Cochise County Health and Social Services in Bisbee, Arizona and as Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs at the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey. She received a Master of Public Policy at Eagleton Institute of Rutgers University, and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Douglass College in New Brunswick.


Commissioner Elnahal noted that the new appointees will join a team led by Chief of Staff Andrea Martinez-Mejia, Principal Deputy Commissioner of Public Health Services Jackie Cornell, and Deputy Commissioner of Health Systems Marcela Ospina-Maziarz.


Hartel and Brown joined the Department today. Schaler-Haynes started last week.  Ford and Del Cid-Kosso began work several weeks ago.


Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter @njdeptofhealth, Facebook /njdeptofhealth, Instagram @njdeptofhealth and Snapchat @njdoh.


Last Reviewed: 4/2/2018