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State health commissioner takes post in California

By WILL ASTOR - 4/10/2014 4:13:58 PM

State Commissioner of Health Nirav Shah M.D. is stepping down.

Shah is taking a job as the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan’s Southern California region chief operating officer. He plans to leave the state Department of Health in June.

First Deputy Commissioner Howard Zucker M.D. is slated to take over as interim commissioner.

An anesthesiologist who holds a law degree and has taught a health law course as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University School of Law, Zucker joined the health department last September in the newly created first deputy commissioner post. His previous experience includes stints as U.S. deputy assistant secretary of health and assistant director-general of the World Health Organization.

Shah, an internist with a public health background, was named health commissioner in 2011 after the unexpected death of his predecessor, Richard Daines M.D. Two issues—hydraulic fracturing and the state’s rollout of a health insurance exchange—have most marked his tenure as commissioner.

Shah has taken heat from pro-hydrofracking forces for delaying a state report on the health effects of the controversial method extracting natural gas from shale deposits. The state exchange, unlike its federal Healthcare.gov counterpart, has mostly made smooth progress since its launch. 

In a statement, Dennis Whelan, president the Healthcare Association of New York State Inc., an Albany trade group representing more than 500 of the state’s non-profit hospitals and nursing homes, praised Shah as “a strong leader and an enthusiastic partner in improving the health of New Yorkers and transforming the delivery of health care in New York State.”
   
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