President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he will nominate Dr. David Shulkin, the undersecretary for health at the Veterans Affairs Department, to take over the top job at the agency.
Trump made the surprise announcement during a press conference in New York, saying Shulkin is "fantastic" and will do a "truly great job," The Associated Press reported.
If Shulkin is confirmed, he would be the first non-veteran to head the VA. With its nearly $180 billion budget, the VA is the second-largest federal agency behind the Defense Department.
Many veterans groups had pushed for Trump to keep current VA Secretary Robert McDonald on the job, but the president-elect has signaled he wants someone else to reform the agency in part by giving vets more access to private care -- an issue he frequently raised during his campaign.
Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs
A selection for the post, expected last month, was delayed after the two frontrunners -- Dr. Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and Luis Quinonez, an Army veteran of Vietnam and founder of IQ Management Services -- dropped out of consideration.
Shulkin was confirmed for his current position at the VA in 2015. In that role, he oversees the Veterans Health Administration and a health care system that covers nearly nine million veterans across more than 1,700 sites.
A physician, Shulkin has previously served as president at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children's Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization, according to his VA biography. Shulkin also previously served as president and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and completed his internship at Yale University School of Medicine, and residency and fellowship in general medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center.