NJ health commissioner who got NJ through COVID pandemic is leaving
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli tells NJ.com she will retire in August.
The 74-year-old who sat at Gov. Phil Murphy's side during his COVID-19 briefings told NJ.com she compares her time in the Murphy administration as the opening line to the Charles Dickens classic "A Tale of Two Cities." She said her time was the best of times and the worst times.
Persichilli's efforts to implement the state's response to COVID-19 earned her the honor of having the state's new Health Department building named after her.
"All those who walk the halls of the 'Judith M. Persichilli Building' will be reminded of her leadership during the greatest public health crisis in our nation’s history," Murphy said at the time of the announcement of the honor.
On a lighter note during the pandemic, she was the subject of a catchphrase during the briefings by Murphy who always identified her as "the woman who needs no introduction."
“Judy’s unwavering dedication to public service during one of the most challenging times in our nation’s history will always be remembered with sincere appreciation and indefinite gratitude," Murphy said in a statement. "Her steadfast leadership at the Department of Health has not only guided our state through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has also driven our work to advance equity, improve maternal health, focus on the dangers of e-cigarettes, and ensure that our hospitals and community health centers remain strong and accessible to all who need them.
"Judy has been an invaluable advisor - and tremendous friend – and I am deeply grateful for her tireless efforts to advance the health and well-being of all New Jerseyans.”
Critical of Gov. Murphy
Persichilli, a former nurse and hospital official, was the subject of criticism when the state was slow to lift its pandemic restrictions, forced nursing homes to take in residents who were infected and pushed COVID-19 vaccination mandates.
Health department workers in June 2020 anonymously signed an anonymous letter to legislators seeking her resignation in the belief she mishandled the state's response, according to NJ.com.
Before the pandemic, Persichilli led efforts to restrict flavored vape products, which she believed was marketed at kids and was a threat to public health.
“Vaping also has nicotine in it. There’s no scientific evidence to date that identifies e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation product,” Persichilli said. “Nicotine is a chemical considered as addictive as heroin and cocaine and is harmful in any form.”
Selling vapes to anyone under the age of 21 in New Jersey is illegal.
Prior to joining the Murphy administration, Persichilli was the acting Chief Executive Officer of University Hospital in Newark. She was president emerita of CHE Trinity Health, the health ministry formed in May 2013 by the consolidation of Catholic Health East and Trinity Health.
Prior to joining CHE’s System Office, she served for eight years as CEO at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton where she earned her nursing diploma at their school of nursing.