USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION
NEWS FAST FACTS
DR. DAVID SHULKIN He was born at Fort Sheridan, Ill., where his father served as an Army psychiatrist. Both his grandfathers were veterans; his father’s dad was chief pharmacist at the VA hospital in Madison, Wis. He received his undergraduate degree from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and his residency and fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center in Pennsylvania. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin has held numerous physician leadership roles, and prior to his confirmation, he served as VA’s undersecretary for health for 18 months, leading the nation’s largest integrated health care system with more than 1,700 sites of care.
Your predecessors had some signature issues — Shinseki vowed to eliminate veterans’ homelessness; McDonald pushed for across-the-board reform — what do you see as the biggest task you want to accomplish? SHULKIN: I don’t have a signature thing because I think it simplifies the issues and doesn’t recognize many of the problems we face in VA and have been dealing with for decades. What I am trying to do is to surface the root-cause issues, (find out) why the same issues keep coming up again and again and address them head-on. I would characterize what I’m trying to do is to surface the tough decisions, make a decision on them and not kick (them) down the road. You’ve been secretary for eight months. What do you consider to be your successes to date? We are not declaring or celebrating our successes because there is so much more work to do … but we have had five major pieces of legislation passed with bipartisan support, and I’m very proud that Congress and the president are aligned on the fact that we need to make these types of
What is your vision reforms to fix the VA. for the public and We have had an “We have to be private health care expansion of benefits system at VA? with the Forever GI nimble enough to I don’t see Choice Bill, fixed broken know that when as a program. We are processes like our treating and running it appeals modernization, we send someone as a (separate) program … we have had two bills into harm’s way, it and that has created a that have extended and number of problems expanded the (Choice is a commitment for veterans: They’ve program) for veterans to had to learn new sets of access care in their comnot only at that rules, eligibilities (and munities when that care moment but for funding), so it functions was not available in the as a separate part of VA. VA system, and we’ve the service memIt should be integrated had a major change in ber for the rest of so that care for a vetour accountability. The eran provides the best (VA Accountability and their life.” of what the VA can offer Whistleblower Protec— David Shulkin but also provides the tion Act) helps us begin best of what the private the culture change sector offers. I am that needs to happen looking for a seamless within the VA. And then system where veterans can access both we’ve done much more beyond legislation VA and the private sector. Say a veteran … like providing mental health care for has a heart condition; you make the best other-than-honorably discharged veterans, decision for them, and that could be that expanding use of telehealth services, management of preventive cardiovascular announcing the disposal of 1,100 vacant or care is what’s best done in VA under underutilized buildings and announcing a new electronic medical record — the one the Department of Defense uses. CO N T I N U E D
Shulkin is married to Merle Bari, a dermatologist, whom he met while doing his residency. They have two adult children — Jennifer and Daniel. He recently edited and published a book on best practices at the Veterans Affairs medical centers, Best Care Anywhere, along with three other VA executives. He has led several major health care systems, serving as president of Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, N.J., and president and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Throughout his career, he has provided care at four VA medical centers, in Philadelphia, West Haven, Conn., Pittsburgh and New York City.