Trump Picks Philadelphia-Based Physician to Lead VA

David Shulkin, who lives in Gladwyne, serves as the department's current undersecretary of health.


Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Philadelphia-based physician David Shulkin to lead the country’s Department of Veteran Affairs. 

Shulkin has served as the department’s undersecretary of health since June 2015, when he was appointed by President Barack Obama. As undersecretary, he’s helped oversee the nation’s network of veterans hospitals, including its 1,233 clinics, 168 medical centers and the almost 8.8 million vets who use those services.

Shulkin is widely credited with having helped turn around what many, including Trump, see as a VA system riddled with dysfunction, particularly in the years prior to Shulkin’s appointment. If Shulkin is confirmed, he’ll be the first secretary to lead the department who isn’t a veteran.

Trump announced his decision during a new conference yesterday, where he said he interviewed more than 100 candidates for the position, reportedly including former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Fox News contributor and Iraq veteran Pete Hegseth. As a Washington insider, Shulkin was a somewhat surprising pick for Trump, who largely has a history of appointing Washington outsiders to his cabinet.

As undersecretary, Shulkin has doubled the amount of health care that veterans receive through private donors but has largely fought against a more broadly privatized system, according to the New York Times.

Trump, who often painted the VA as flawed and in dire need of an overhaul, said he has “no doubt Dr. Shulkin will be able to lead the turnaround” in a statement released yesterday.

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the New York Times that Shulkin is “a very surprising pick, but he is the best out of all the candidates. We know him, we trust him and we can work with him.”

Shulkin, who is 57 years old and lives in Gladwyne, has served as the chief medical officer of Penn Medicine and Temple University Hospital. He received his medical degree at the Medical College of Pennsylvania.

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