The Lead

Top health official to step down this week, Wolf administration announces

By: - April 18, 2022 4:03 pm

Acting state Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter speaks during a Department of Health press conference in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. (Screenshot)

Three months after taking over as Pennsylvania’s top health official, acting state Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter is stepping down. 

Klinepeter’s resignation takes effect April 22, the Wolf administration announced Monday. Gov. Tom Wolf has named Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson as her successor.

“Working alongside the Department of Health’s devoted staff during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic has been an absolute honor,” Klinepeter said in a statement. “I am proud of the work we have accomplished to better the lives of all Pennsylvanians.”

Klinepeter succeeded former acting Health Secretary Alison Beam, who left the administration at the beginning of the year and later took a lobbying job with UPMC. Beam assumed the role after Dr. Rachel Levine was selected to serve as President Joe Biden’s U.S. assistant health secretary.

Before working as acting secretary, Klinepeter served as the executive deputy secretary for the Health Department and as a special advisor to the Health Secretary. She also worked as the director of rural health innovation for the Health Department, where she helped design and expand population health initiatives.

Wolf nominated Johnson to serve as the state’s physician general in March 2021. She previously worked as Meadville Medical Center’s chief medical officer and served as interim physician general after Levine left the Wolf administration. 

“The pandemic has changed many aspects of public health here in Pennsylvania and nationwide,” Johnson said. “I am honored to … lead the department during this transformative time in public health, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with the tremendous employees at the Department of Health and ensuring our health remains a top priority throughout the commonwealth.”

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