Washington, DC —Today, President-elect Joe Biden announced his nomination of Rachel Levine, MD, FAAP, for assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, and last week, David Kessler, MD, JD, FAAP, was named chief science officer of the federal COVID vaccine effort. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) applauds the Biden administration for recognizing the critical role of pediatricians in leading federal policy.
"As we confront one of the deadliest months so far in the COVID-19 pandemic and grapple with its short and long-term effects on our healthcare workforce, children and families, it is essential that pediatricians have a seat at the table," said AAP President Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP. "We are thrilled that two outstanding pediatrician leaders, Dr. David Kessler and Dr. Rachel Levine, will be leading efforts to help shape policies that prioritize children and families across the country during this challenging time."
Dr. Kessler, who has been serving as co-chair of Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board, was Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner from 1990 to 1997. During his tenure at FDA, AAP presented Dr. Kessler with its Excellence in Public Service Award, which honors a national official for their outstanding contributions to America's children and families through the public policy process.
“Dr. Kessler has been a pioneer for children in his years in public service, including protecting children from the harms of tobacco and ensuring that medications used in children are safe and effective,” said Dr. Beers. "As we confront challenges in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, I can think of no one better than Dr. Kessler to ensure that children are included in vaccine trials and that those of us caring for patients during this pandemic have equitable access.”
Dr. Levine is the secretary of health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and received the 2020 AAP Child Health Advocate Award in recognition for her commitment to the health and well-being of children and families. Dr. Levine, whose role would require Senate approval, would become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate.
"Dr. Levine has risen to unprecedented challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to support the children and families of Pennsylvania, and we know her leadership and expertise will be invaluable as our country works to overcome this crisis, " said AAP Pennsylvania Chapter President Trude Haecker, MD, FAAP. "While we will thoroughly miss Dr. Levine in Pennsylvania, we know that all Americans will benefit from her unwavering commitment to advancing public health."
“We urge the Senate to work to confirm Dr. Levine to this important role as soon as possible. Her expertise is urgently needed as our nation continues to face this pandemic,” said Dr. Beers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.