Elnahal left his job as state health commissioner a few months before the state was hit with an almost unprecedented public health crisis. So while his successor in the administration was left to grapple with the statewide response, Elnahal fought the pandemic in one of its hottest spots: Newark.
He is the president and chief executive officer of University Hospital in the city, the state’s only public hospital and its largest safety net hospital.
As the second wave ebbed and vaccines started to roll out, Elnahal was in a perfect position to help overcome resistance to the shots in communities of color that have been poorly served in the past and have good reason to be skeptical of public health officials. And he has been one of the leading voices in that effort, visible on the local, state and national levels. “Really, it’s on us to recognize, legitimize and listen to these concerns and clearly contrast how this vaccination effort is different in that it’s not explicitly harming people of color,” he told NJBIZ in December.
“But it will help people of color disproportionately because our community here in Newark and so many others like it had been disproportionately devastated by this pandemic.”