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Indian American to revamp New Jersey health care

February 16, 2010 21:51 IST
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has named Dr Poonam Alaigh, director, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, New Jersey, as the commissioner of the state Health and Senior Services Department, a cabinet post.
Alaigh, 45, has a multifaceted background in health-care administration and delivery, including clinical practice, hospital practice, hospital administration, managed care, pharmaceutical medicine, and health-care policy. She is also an assistant professor in the department of family practice at University of Medicine and Dentistry, Robert Wood Johnson University Medical School. She is one of the founding members of SATHI (the South Asian Total Healthcare Initiative) a programme at the UMDNJ.
New Jersey Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, a Democrat, welcomed her nomination by the Republican governor.
When SATHI was launched last year to promote 'culturally competent health care for South Asians', Chivukula asked Alaigh to join as a founding member.
"With her experience as a doctor and working in the corporate health-care sector, she is very approachable and she knows all the issues firsthand," Chivukula said. "Dr Poonam Alaigh's medical training and her experience in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries make her a great pick for the job," he said.

Alaigh, a Delhi native and daughter of a former Indian diplomat, faces many challenges too, he noted. The health-care sector in New Jersey is
facing many problems including closure of hospitals and the conditions for practicing doctors in the state has become difficult.
"She needs to set right many things. We are sure that she is capable to deal with these challenges," he said.
Chivukula also welcomed the growing diversity in the Christie cabinet and commended the governor for selecting highly qualified individuals with diverse backgrounds.
Before joining Horizon, the state's largest health insurer, Alaigh served as national medical director, GlaxoSmithKline, and worked with health plans on a number of national issues, including better use of health-care technology, the reduction of disparities in health care and health-care access to the under and uninsured population. She practices medicine at the New Jersey Veterans Administration Hospital in Lyons, is a member of the College of New Jersey Board of Trustees, and has served as president, American Heart Association of North Jersey.
She earned her MD and her masters in health-care policy and management from State University of New York at Stony Brook. She had served on then governor-elect Jon S Corzine's Transition Team on health-care policy, strategies and issues in 2005. She is a board certified internist with a specialty in vascular diseases. The state senate has to confirm her appointment.
Alaigh said her first priority is to help the governor balance the budget.
George Joseph