An Open Letter in Passionate Support of the Nomination of Dr. Rachel Levine
When President Joseph R. Biden nominated Dr. Rachel Levine as Assistant Secretary for Health, he took a courageous and visionary leap towards a healthier, more equitable nation. As a Pennsylvania primary care physician, medical educator and executive of a graduate medical education safety net services consortium and mother, I commend and fully support the nomination of Dr. Rachel Levine. In my humble opinion, Dr. Rachel Levine is amongst our greatest contemporary public health minds, so this appointment offers a great blessing to our country.
Dr. Levine has proven to be a bold, compassionate, competent public health leader throughout every step of her career — from building academic care delivery systems to improve comprehensive adolescent health services and most recently, through her role as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, fearlessly leading nationally significant statewide responses to the opioid epidemic and COVID-19 pandemic.
Through our organizational engagement as a Pennsylvania Opiate Misuse Center of Excellence and Coordinating Center for Medication Assisted Therapy, I have personally witnessed her demonstrated, unwavering commitment to being the change needed in the medical profession’s and governmental leadership by reliably doing what is right; making disciplined, evidence-based, and often painful sometimes unpopular decisions; and leading through or without consensus after generating crucial, inclusive, and transparent communication. My shared public health experience with and mentorship by Dr. Levine has inspired both my personal primary care career progression to board certify in and practice addiction medicine and also the focused efforts of The Wright Center for Community Health to become a recovery, whole person care oriented system. Our collective work in Pennsylvania under the leadership of Dr. Levine notably and proudly reversed the direction of opioid overdose death rates. Countless lives have been saved, thousands of provider care teams have received robust training in addiction medicine, and stigma has begun to be dismantled as a result of her meaningful contributions and leadership.
Compassion, optimism, and active listening are cornerstones of Dr. Levine’s leadership style. She began her tenure with the Pennsylvania Department of Health by traveling the Commonwealth to listen to clinicians, community health workers, patients and families about their experiences with substance use disorders and opioid overdoses. These proximal-to-the-problem experiences brilliantly informed her three-pronged, comprehensive prevention, rescue, and treatment strategy to address the opioid epidemic. This competent approach of a compassionate public health leader has poised Dr. Levine to scale her successful work in Pennsylvania to the complex health outcomes and access disparities challenging our nation.
Pennsylvania has been deeply fortunate to have Dr. Levine as a calm, qualified clinician, leader and advocate throughout the past several years. Dr. Levine will be a powerful voice for all people in America. Although Pennsylvania will miss her direct leadership and guidance immensely, our nation will be in excellent hands as we craft the path out of the pandemic and through this new chapter of addressing our ongoing complex health challenges and the long view impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Linda Thomas-Hemak, MD
President & Chief Executive Officer