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NJ Health Dept To Bear Persichilli's Name To Honor COVID-19 Work

Patch logo Patch 6/18/2021 Karen Wall
a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has been a constant presence at Gov. Phil Murphy's coronavirus news conferences during the pandemic. © Chris Pedota, The Record/Gannett, pool photo Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has been a constant presence at Gov. Phil Murphy's coronavirus news conferences during the pandemic.

TRENTON, NJ — She has been "the woman who needs no introduction" for the majority of the coronavirus pandemic in New Jersey.

Now, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli will be the woman who will not be forgotten: her name will be on the new Department of Health building in downtown Trenton that was completed in late 2020.

The state-of-the art-facility will be renamed the "Judith M. Persichilli Building" after the the Senate and Assembly pass legislation to make it official. Gov. Phil Murphy, state Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin announced the plan Friday.

"Each and every day throughout the pandemic, Judy has remained singularly engaged to save lives and protect public health," Murphy said. "She has been the right leader for these times, and I could not be prouder to have asked Judy to serve as commissioner two years ago."

"Now all those who pass through the halls of the ‘Judith M. Persichilli Building’ will be reminded of Judy’s selfless, honorable, and dedicated service to our state and its residents during the greatest public health crisis in New Jersey’s history,” he said.

Sweeney called it "a fitting tribute" to Persichilli, who was appointed acting health commissioner in August 2019 and confirmed by the state Senate on Jan. 9, 2020.

“On the front lines of New Jersey’s pandemic response, it comes as no surprise Commissioner Persichilli has become a household name,” Coughlin said.

Persichilli, the first registered nurse to serve as the state's health commissioner, had extensive experience before her role with the state. She served as the acting CEO of University Hospital in Newark, and before that spent more than 15 years in leadership roles at CHE Trinity Health, the health ministry formed in May 2013 by the consolidation of Catholic Health East and Trinity Health of Livonia, Michigan, and at Catholic Health East before the merger. She was CEO at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton for eight years before moving to Catholic Health East.

Persichilli received her nursing diploma from the St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing, a bachelor's degree in nursing summa cum laude from Rutgers University, and a master's degree in administration summa cum laude from Rider University, and has received two honorary doctorates.

The move to honor her drew praise from health care executives across New Jersey.

"Commissioner Persichilli is a true public health hero," said Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Under her leadership New Jersey has one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation. We are incredibly fortunate to have her leading the response."

"We've been on this journey with the community from the beginning, breaking through hesitancy by genuinely acknowledging the history of medical racism, and eventually changing the narrative to one that emphasizes vaccination against COVID-19 as the first of many steps toward health equity," said Shereef Elnahal, MD MBA, President and CEO of University Hospital and Northern Region COVID-19 Response Coordinator. "I cannot think of a more deserving person than Commissioner Persichilli to be recognized with her namesake on a building where critical public health work will happen for generations to come."

"I see firsthand the positive impact Commissioner Persichilli’s daily dedication and tireless work ethic has for residents of New Jersey during the pandemic," said Kevin O’Dowd, Co-CEO of Cooper University Health Care and Southern Region COVID-19 Response Coordinator.

Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver called Persichilli "a true humanitarian."

"Commissioner Persichilli’s tireless leadership and expertise in helping us emerge from this pandemic has been remarkable and I can think of no other person in the state who is more deserving of this honor," Oliver said.

Sen. Joseph Vitale, who chairs the Senate's Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, called Persichilli "a role model for our stalwart corps of health care workers, and led by example throughout the pandemic through her commitment and inspiring work ethic. She deserves this recognition, along with the eternal thanks and well wishes of all those who call New Jersey home."

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