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David Shulkin
David Shulkin official photo.jpg
Official portrait, 2017
9th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
In office
February 14, 2017 – March 28, 2018
President Donald Trump
Deputy Thomas G. Bowman
Preceded by Bob McDonald
Succeeded by Robert Wilkie
Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health
In office
July 6, 2015 – February 13, 2017
President Barack Obama
Donald Trump
Preceded by Robert Petzel
Succeeded by Poonam Alaigh (acting)
Personal details
David Jonathon Shulkin

(1959-07-22) July 22, 1959 (age 64)
Highland Park, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Independent
Spouse Merle Bari
Children 2
Education Hampshire College (BA)
Drexel University (MD)

David Jonathon Shulkin (born July 22, 1959) is an American physician and former government official. In 2017, Shulkin became the ninth United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs and served under President Donald Trump. He was the Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health from 2015 until 2017, appointed by President Barack Obama. On March 28, 2018, President Trump dismissed Shulkin from his position by tweet, and announced that Physician to the President Ronny Jackson would be nominated as Shulkin's successor, although Jackson's nomination was withdrawn on April 26, 2018, after allegations surfaced of misconduct and mismanagement while serving in the White House. He was succeeded by Under Secretary of Defense Robert Wilkie.

Early life and education

David Shulkin was born at the Fort Sheridan U.S. Army base in Highland Park, Illinois, to Mark Weiss Shulkin and Sonya Lee (née Edelman), where his father was an Army psychiatrist. Both of his grandfathers fought in World War I. He received a BA from Hampshire College in 1982, and an MD degree from Medical College of Pennsylvania (which has since merged into Drexel University) in 1986; he then did his medical internship at Yale School of Medicine, and his residency and fellowship in General Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center. He was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.


Shulkin specialized in health care management. He has been described as one of the "high priests" of patient centered care. Shulkin was the President and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. While there, Shulkin would walk the wards after midnight after he discovered the night shift was providing a lower quality of care. He also was president of Morristown Medical Center and as vice president of Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization.

He was the first Chief Medical Officer of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and later at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Temple University Hospital, and the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital.

His other academic positions have included Chairman of Medicine and Vice Dean at Drexel University College of Medicine, and Professor of Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Shulkin has been the editor of Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management and Hospital Physician, and has been on the editorial boards of several journals, including Journal of the American Medical Association. He founded and served as the chairman and CEO of DoctorQuality, Inc., a consumer-oriented information service.

Shulkin has written several peer-reviewed journal articles and other professional publications. In 1999, Shulkin started a pay for performance company called DoctorQuality, which ultimately failed.

Veterans Affairs

In 2015, Shulkin left the private sector when he was named by President Barack Obama as Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). .....

On January 11, 2017, Shulkin was nominated by President-elect Donald Trump as United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Trump, who had first considered five others, nominated Shulkin after a recommendation by Ambassador David M. Friedman. On February 13, 2017, the United States Senate unanimously confirmed Shulkin as the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs in a 100–0 vote, making him the only cabinet nominee by President Trump to have unanimous consent. He was the first non-veteran to hold the position. In this position, Shulkin oversaw the government's second-largest agency, with over 350,000 employees and 1,700 facilities. Shulkin hoped to increase reliance on private health care for routine procedures, like hearing aids, so the department could focus on its core mission of caring for the wounded.

For President Trump's address to a joint session of Congress on February 28, 2017, Shulkin was the designated survivor in the line of succession of the president.

In April 2017, Shulkin had every VA hospital and clinic begin publicly posting quality data and wait times. He wanted to provide those with a less than honorable military discharge with free mental health care.

In May 2017, behind closed doors, Shulkin asked his VA healthcare directors to get rid of in-house optometry and audiology services to veterans—instead farming out those services to private community care.

In early July 2017, Shulkin announced that any settlement with an employee will require the approval of the undersecretary, assistant secretary or equivalent senior-level official. This effectively stopped all settlements. Lawyer Debra D'Agostino said that this will increase litigation against the VA and taxpayers will be paying for the VA's defense of itself and any illegal actions of its leadership. D'Agostino also said that federal agencies found liable for discrimination or whistleblower retaliation are not penalized as severely as private companies as compensatory damages are limited and there are no punitive damages available.

On March 28, 2018, Trump announced on Twitter that Shulkin had been fired and would be replaced by appointee Robert Wilkie in the interim. Trump also announced that Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson would be nominated to replace Shulkin.

Privatization of VA healthcare

Following his dismissal in March 2018, Shulkin highlighted the political pressure from the Trump White House to dismantle VA healthcare and send veterans to the private sector. In a New York Times editorial, Shulkin warned that "privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans." Much of the political push to privatize VA healthcare comes from the political advocacy group Concerned Veterans of America (CVA), which is backed by Charles and David Koch. Privatization of VA healthcare is overwhelmingly opposed by veterans and veteran service organizations (VSO). Political aides assigned to VA, including John Ullyot, Camilo J. Sandoval and Jake Leinenkugel, battled with Shulkin over the issue and advocated for his removal in an effort to coerce him to support privatization. Shulkin's removal as head of the VA has renewed concerns among veterans that the Trump administration will privatize VA healthcare.

Personal life

Shulkin is married to Merle Bari, a dermatologist. They have two children, Daniel and Jennifer. His daughter, Jennifer, won a gold medal in squash at the 2009 Maccabiah Games. Shulkin is Jewish.

Published works

  • Shulkin, David J., M.D. (2008). Questions Patients Need to Ask: Getting the Best Healthcare. Xlibris, Corp. ISBN: 978-1436367592.
  • Shulkin, David J., M.D. (2019). It Shouldn't Be This Hard to Serve Your Country: Our Broken Government and the Plight of Veterans. PublicAffairs. ISBN: 1541762657.

Awards and honors

  • Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute in Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • National Health Policy Fellow, U.S. Senate Committee on Aging
  • Named one of the country's top Health care leaders for the next century by Modern Healthcare,
  • Named One of the Hundred Most Powerful in Healthcare (ranked #86) by Modern Healthcare (2008).
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