The Lead

Top Wolf aide named to replace Levine at state Health Dept.

By: - January 22, 2021 1:35 pm

Acting Pa. Health Secretary Alison Beam and Dr. Wendy Braund, acting Pa. Physician General | Wolf administration photo

Gov. Tom Wolf has tapped a top staffer to replace Dr. Rachel Levine as the new head of the state Department of Health.

Alison Beam, currently a deputy chief of staff to Wolf, will take over as acting Secretary of Health, pending confirmation by the state Senate.

Beam will have to quickly step into Levine’s place to manage Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including managing the so far lackluster roll out of a vaccine.

Wolf called Beam a “talented public servant who brings years of experience in health care policy and implementation to this position.” He named creating a smooth and effective vaccine rollout as Beam’s top priority.

Levine, who for the past 10 months has been the public face of the state’s public health efforts, was tapped to be the assistant health secretary in President Joe Biden’s new administration earlier this week.

Beam worked under Wolf managing the implementation of a state health insurance exchange, and also help coordinate the state’s COVID-19 response, according to a press release.

Before working for Wolf, Beam, a Drexel University Law School graduate, worked in the Pennsylvania Insurance Department under former GOP Gov. Tom Corbett.

She then took a job as policy director for Philadelphia-based insurer Independence Blue Cross from 2014 until 2017, before she jumped back into public service at the insurance department. She joined Wolf’s top staff in August 2019.

Besides the pandemic, Beam also will be tasked with overseeing nursing homes and hospitals, managing the state’s medical marijuana program, coordinating the state’s opioid epidemic response and maintaining birth and death records, among other responsibilities.

State advocacy groups, as well as Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, of Allegheny County, hailed Beam’s policy background as a good fit for the office and circumstances. 

“She has big shoes to fill,” Costa noted in a statement.

Wolf also announced he was appointing Dr. Wendy Braund as Pennsylvania’s interim Physician General. 

Braund formerly worked at the Wyoming State Health Office, and has a MD from the Penn State College of Medicine.

In her role, she’ll advise the Wolf administration on medical and public health matters. She is, like Beam, replacing Levine, who held both titles.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.