RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) – Southwest Virginia’s health care challenges should get an ear in Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s administration after Youngkin named Ballad CEO Alan Levine and state Sen. Todd Pillion to a small medical advisory team.

Levine is one of six primary members and Pillion (R-Abingdon) one of three ex-officio members.

The group’s primary initial mission will be to update and advise the Youngkin administration on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He seeks eyes on the ground from people who are not inside his bubble and I think that’s important right now,” Levine told News Channel 11 Tuesday.

“He’s made sure to attempt that the input he gets is inclusive of all the parts of the state,” Levine said of Youngkin’s appointments. “Each is different in terms of what they’re experiencing.”

In a release announcing the team, Youngkin said he’s been receiving regular briefings on COVID and its current main concern, the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

“I recognize the severity of the virus and the significant loss that it has caused,” Youngkin said. “Virginians should rest assured that we are monitoring this variant and doing everything we can to be smart about this.”

Levine said he believes Youngkin is approaching COVID-19 much the way his predecessor outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam has — by relying on evidence, which Levine said the trained engineer has done in earlier conversations with the medical advisory team.

“The questions he’s always asked really are, number one, what do you see? How are you being impacted, specifically what are the labor issues, how are your ERs being impacted.”

Some of the best evidence comes from people on the ground in different areas of the state confronting COVID from different health care sectors, Levine said.

“He has to weigh everything from the impact on children not just related to the virus but what’s the mental health impact of all this,” Levine said. “He’s got to weigh the economic impact of labor shortages, not just in health care but throughout the economy.

“I have the privilege of not having to weigh all of that when I’m giving him advice and so I think the best thing any of us can do is make sure we’re just sharing the facts and then letting him weigh all of the different pieces of input that he’s getting so he can make best policy decision for the entire Commonwealth.”

The group, which the release described as an “independent, objective” team, will frequently update Youngkin. It’s chaired by Dr. Marty Makary of Johns Hopkins Medicine and also includes doctors Anand Shah, a former deputy commissioner at the federal Food and Drug Administration, and Bogdan Neughebauer of Sentara Healthcare.

Other members are Nancy Howell Agee of Carilion Clinic, like Levine a healthcare CEO, and Kathy Gorman, a registered nurse and the chief operating officer of Children’s National Hospital.

Siobhan Dunnavant is the other state senator who serves ex-officio, along with the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel.