Signaling the importance of health care reform in turning around the state’s economy, Gov.-elect Dan Malloy appointed Jeanette DeJesús as his special advisor on healthcare reform to a newly created cabinet level position Tuesday.

“I want to be very clear this is a cabinet level position,” Malloy said Tuesday when introducing DeJesús at a press conference. The position will be similar to the one held by Cristine Vogel Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s special advisor on healthcare reform since July.

Unlike Vogel, Malloy said DeJesús will be treated as a commissioner, although she will also fulfill the role as Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, and will not need to be confirmed by the legislature. Malloy said he’s elevating it to a full cabinet level position, which will be funded as part of the Department of Public Health budget.

“This is a very special and important assignment,” Malloy said. “She will be in many ways my point person in Washington when it comes to these healthcare issues. Certainly will be very key in advising me and the lieutenant governor with respect to what we need to do to be compliant with the new federal legislation.”

DeJesús, who used to head the Hispanic Health Council, and Malloy met several years ago when they were both on a panel exploring health inequities and racial disparities at the Connecticut Health Foundation. Malloy said Tuesday that he sought DeJesús out for this position.

He said he’s confident she will help make Connecticut a leader on the implementation of health care reform, including setting up the exchanges by 2014.

“I understand one of the great challenges confronting my administration, once we get past the current budget difficulties, is the implementation of a federal system,” Malloy said.

“The implementation of health care reform in Connecticut is among the most important issues of our time,“ DeJesús said. “And as I move forward in trying to make sense of federal health care reform policy I hope to build unity in a time of tremendous change an uncertainty within the health care field.”

DeJesús will answer to two bosses both Malloy and his Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen.

For the past nine weeks DeJesús was vice president of the Connecticut Hospital Association before joining the Malloy administration. Malloy said DeJesús’ salary is still being negotiated.