Five Penn community members have been selected by Pennsylvania Governor-elect Josh Shapiro’s transition team to be advisory committee members.
Penn community members include CEO of Penn Health System Kevin Mahoney, Penn Director of Commonwealth Relations Michael Smith, Frank Wister Thomas Professor of Medicine and Chair of the Health System Department of Medicine Michael S. Parmacek, former interim Penn President Wendell Pritchett, and William G. Baxt Professor and Vice Chair for Research in Emergency Medicine Benjamin Abella.
The incoming Shapiro administration announced a list of over 300 transition team members who will work alongside the governor-elect until he is inaugurated on Jan. 17, Spotlight PA reported. The transition team members may be placed on one of seven different transition advisory committees: Economic Development, Environment and Energy, Public Safety, Education and Workforce, Health and Human Services, Consumer Protection, and State Government Operations. Each committee team includes several subcommittees underneath it.
Kevin Mahoney, CEO of the Health System and Healthcare Transition Advisory Subcommittee member, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that he first received the position on the Shapiro transition team because he was identified as someone that could provide insight into the health care space.
Mahoney said that once a week, he talks over the phone with his subcommittee colleagues from across the Commonwealth, and he has worked on assembling a position paper that will get passed on to the incoming Shapiro administration.
“We’ve been trying to address questions like access: How do you maintain access in health care as hospitals struggle, rural and urban?” Mahoney said, adding that his team is working on answering how to collect public health data that informs the direction for the Commonwealth to proceed in many ways.
After Shapiro’s inauguration, Mahoney said he will continue to work with the Shapiro administration through the Health System’s government relations group.
“We will continue to advocate for what we think is right for the Commonwealth and right for Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, and the Health System,” Mahoney said.
Despite a new gubernatorial administration, Mahoney said the Health System’s role is not likely to be “any different” with Gov.-elect Shapiro than with Gov. Wolf or former Gov. Ridge.
“Penn has always been active in government. The school receives a lot of Commonwealth funding, and we provide services to the central part of the state,” Mahoney said, adding that the Health System and the University advocate for what they think is needed in the Commonwealth.
Mahoney added that he sees a “path for real progress in the health care sector.”
He said that one of the most critical issues the Pennsylvania House and Shapiro will need to address is Medicaid redetermination, which affects whether 500,000 Pennsylvanians will receive public medical benefits after the COVID-19 public health emergency continuous coverage expires in April.
Michael Smith, Penn director of Commonwealth Relations and Rural/Agriculture Transition Advisory Subcommittee member, told the DP that he has provided input from his personal experience from when he was in the State Service for 14 years prior to joining Penn. Smith also grew up in a rural community in Western Pennsylvania that depended on the agricultural industry, sharpening his perspective.
Smith said that he offered himself as a resource through a portal website set up by Gov.-elect Shapiro following his November 2022 election victory.
“Each of the committees and subcommittees the governor-elect has assembled is really comprised of a diverse set of thought and policy leaders across the Commonwealth,” Smith said, adding that committee members have “in-depth expertise in a variety of policy domains.”
Within the Rural/Agricultural subcommittee, Smith said that he and his fellow subcommittee members have discussed what the governor-elect hopes to do to “create a Pennsylvania where everyone can thrive regardless of whether or not they voted for him.”
In the rural and agricultural space specifically, Smith said the governor-elect has emphasized the revitalization of rural Pennsylvanian communities that have perhaps not realized the growth benefits of recent economic upturns.
Smith also mentioned how the governor-elect’s policy priorities are “very much aligned” with Penn’s priorities as a University dedicated to bringing services to local communities, the regional economy, and the Commonwealth.
“We will seek to work to advance Penn’s interests, but to do so in a way that brings the University’s reputation for excellence in education, teaching, research, and service to bear and create value for the Commonwealth,” Smith said.
2018 Penn Carey Law graduate Akbar Hossain was announced as the executive director of the transition team, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Shapiro was elected in the November 2022 midterm elections, where he defeated Republican candidate Doug Mastriano. He will be inaugurated on Jan. 17.