D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray on July 17 nominated Dr. Joxel Garcia, a native of Puerto Rico who served as Assistant Secretary for Health under President George W. Bush, as the new director of the city’s Department of Health.
If confirmed by the City Council, as expected, Garcia would replace Dr. Saul Levin, who’s gay and who served as DOH interim director for the past year and a half. Levin, a psychiatrist, recently left DOH to become CEO and medical director of the American Psychiatric Association.
“Dr. Garcia has extensive experience in multiple aspects of our health system, including service at the state, federal and international levels,” Gray said in a statement. “In addition, his familiarity with our city and our region and his extensive resume working in multicultural settings means he will be a natural fit to help move the District’s public health efforts forward.”
Prior to becoming assistant secretary of health, Garcia served as a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service, served as U.S. representative to the World Health Organization and deputy director of WHO’s Pan American Health Organization. He also served as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health and as president and Dean of the Ponce School of Medicine in Puerto Rico.
Garcia’s record of addressing HIV/AIDS and LGBT-related health issues couldn’t immediately be obtained. But Don Blanchon, executive director of D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health, which specializes in LGBT health services, expressed strong support for Garcia’s nomination.
“We welcome Dr. Garcia to the Department of Health,” Blanchon told the Blade. “His wealth of experience in public health will be a tremendous asset to the city as it addresses numerous health issues, including HIV/AIDS and the need for quality care for the LGBT community. We look forward to working with Dr. Garcia on these issues.”