Friday, March 25, 2011

NJ Health Commissioner Resigns; Successor Chosen

Dr. Poonam Alaigh today announced that due to an urgent illness in the family, she will be resigning from the position of New Jersey Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, effective April 1, 2011. Deputy Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, Mary O’Dowd, will assume the duties of Acting Commissioner, and will be nominated by Governor Christie to be Commissioner of Health.
“My time serving as Commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services has been an incredible privilege and honor. I am passionate about the work and accomplishments we have been able to deliver for the families of New Jersey during this time of unprecedented budget challenges. So, it is with both pride and difficulty that I today announce my resignation from the Department,” said Commissioner Alaigh. “I thank Governor Christie for his faith and confidence in nominating me to lead the Department through this historic time for our State, and for his leadership in our efforts to improve healthcare in the state. I also recognize and thank my colleagues in the Department and the Administration for their support and commitment to doing what is right for all New Jerseyans.
“It has been a great privilege to serve Governor Christie and through him the people of New Jersey. Health remains a pressing issue of importance for the Administration. I am confident that under Governor Christie’s leadership of the state, and Mary O’Dowd’s continued leadership at the Department, there will be great strides made in improving quality healthcare for every New Jersey family,” concluded Dr. Alaigh.
In accepting her resignation, Governor Christie thanked Commissioner Alaigh for her service at the Department and her dedication to the people of New Jersey.
“I want to thank Dr. Poonam Alaigh for her dedicated service and extraordinary accomplishments as Commissioner of Health,” said Governor Christie. “Dr. Alaigh leaves this Administration with a strong record of service to the people of our state, including an increase in funding for hospitals two years in a row, the introduction of continuous and coordinated health care coverage for our seniors, innovations in health care delivery and her principled implementation of a scientifically-based medicinal marijuana program. Her commitment and passion for the job has been unprecedented and her stewardship of the Department has been world class through a period of economic difficulty and an increased need among our citizens for quality healthcare services. The people of New Jersey are better served today as a result of Dr. Alaigh’s service.”
Dr. Alaigh was nominated by Governor Christie on January 27, 2010 and took leadership of the Department of Health and Senior Services during a time of unprecedented budget difficulties and critical healthcare issues facing the State and people of New Jersey. Under her leadership, the Department made great progress on significant and emerging health issues, including:

· Reforming and increasing resources for Charity Care Hospital Funding to better care for New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens;

· Driving the rebalancing of long term care and introducing the concept of a continuum of coordinated care for New Jersey’s seniors;

· Establishing the New Jersey Center for Health Innovations to harness creative and innovative methods to transform the health care delivery; and

· Releasing the “Health of the Newest New Jerseyans” report, the first of its kind in the country.

Other policy issues included the development of appropriate rules that establish the hospital practice of anesthesia and C-PORT-E hospital licensing for cardiac catheterization procedures. Dr. Alaigh remains a strong voice for health information technology in delivering high quality, patient centric healthcare and for initiatives that will bring innovative solutions to ensure independence and dignity for our older adult population.
Mary O’Dowd was appointed Deputy Commissioner of Senior Services and Health Systems in March 2010. O’Dowd had previously served as Chief of Staff for the Department. Prior to joining the Department, O’Dowd worked in financial management for the Emergency Department at NYU Medical Center. O’Dowd is a graduate of Douglas College, Rutgers University and holds a Masters in Public Health from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. She also completed a fellowship in hospital finance at NYU Medical Center.
Dr. Christina Tan, who currently serves as the State Epidemiologist and Assistant Commissioner for Environmental and Occupational Health Services in the Department of Health, will be named Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Department, consistent with the requirement that either the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner be a physician.

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