January 19th, 2021
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe
Biden has tapped Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be his
assistant secretary of health, leaving her poised to become the first
openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, Levine was
appointed to her current post by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017,
making her one of the few transgender people serving in elected or
appointed positions nationwide.
She won past confirmation by the
Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate and has emerged as the public
face of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise
we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code,
race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and
meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and
beyond,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply
qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”
is leaving her post at a critical time in the statewide response to the
pandemic. The state is reporting hundreds of deaths per day and
officials are trying to ramp up statewide distribution of the two
COVID-19 vaccines amid fluctuating allocations from the federal
Levine has been the public face of the state’s virus
response. The governor’s office said it planned to make an announcement
on Levine’s replacement later in the week.
“I am extremely proud
of the work we have done during the last year to save lives in the face
of the COVID-19 global pandemic,” Levine said in a statement.
look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve Pennsylvanians, and
all Americans, as part of the Biden Administration if I am fortunate
enough to be confirmed to this position.”
“Dr. Levine is a highly
skilled and valued member of my administration and she will be greatly
missed,” said Gov. Tom Wolf, in a statement. “She has been a wise and
dedicated partner during this pandemic and throughout her career with
the commonwealth. I couldn’t be prouder of the tireless work she’s done
to serve Pennsylvanians and protect the public health.”
Bob Casey also praised the nomination, saying in a statement, in part,
“She is exactly the kind of crisis-tested leader our nation needs in the
position of Assistant Secretary of Health at the Department of Health
and Human Services during this difficult time for our nation.”
graduate of Harvard and of Tulane Medical School, Levine is president
of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She’s
written in the past on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent
medicine, eating disorders and LGBTQ medicine.
“But more than
making history, Dr. Levine will make a difference in the lives of LGBTQ
Americans, and all Americans through her innovative approaches and her
unabated dedication to public health,” said the Lehigh Valley’s
Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, in a statement.
than anything, what Dr. Levine’s nomination means it just proves trans
people are just as capable as anyone else in this country,” said Corinne
Goodwin, executive director of the Eastern Pennsylvania Trans Equity
“It’s just one more step in the normalization of trans lives.”
and his transition team have already begun negotiating with members of
Congress, promoting speedy passage of the president-elect’s $1.9
trillion plan to bring the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 400,000
people in the United States, under control. It seeks to enlist federal
emergency personnel to run mass vaccination centers and provide 100
million immunization shots in his administration’s first 100 days while
using government spending to stimulate the pandemic-hammered economy.
also says that, in one of his first acts as president, he’ll ask
Americans to wear masks for 100 days to slow the virus’ spread.
joins Biden’s Health and Human Services secretary nominee Xavier
Becerra, a Latino politician who rose from humble beginnings to serve in
Congress and as California’s attorney general.
Zients is Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, while Biden picked
infectious-disease specialist Rochelle Walensky to run the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, Vivek Murthy as surgeon general and Yale
epidemiologist Marcella Nunez-Smith to head a working group to ensure
fair and equitable distribution of vaccines and treatments.
The government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, will also work closely with the Biden administration.
Adrian Shanker is an award-winning activist and
organizer whose career has centered on advancing progress for the LGBT
community. He has worked as an arts fundraiser, labor organizer,
marketing manager, and served as President of Equality Pennsylvania for
three years before founding Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in
Allentown, PA, where he serves as executive director. An accomplished
organizer, Adrian has led numerous successful campaigns to advance LGBT
progress through municipal nondiscrimination and relationship
recognition laws and laws to protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy.
A specialist in LGBT health policy, he has developed leading-edge
health promotion campaigns to advance health equity through behavioral,
clinical, and policy changes.
Rachel L. Levine, MD, is the secretary of health for
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Professor of Pediatrics and
Psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. She is a fellow of the
American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and
Medicine, and the Academy for Eating Disorders. She is a member of the
World Professional Association for Transgender Health. She is also a
board member and executive committee member of the Association of State
and Territorial Health Officials. Dr. Levine joined Governor Tom Wolf’s
administration in January 2015 as the physician general of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and, upon her appointment, became the first
transgender person to hold a cabinet position in Pennsylvania. In 2017,
she was named the acting secretary of health and in 2018 was confirmed
by the Pennsylvania Senate as the Secretary of Health. She leads the
LGBTQ Policy Workgroup and advocates for LGBT rights for the Wolf
Administration. Dr. Levine is also an accomplished regional and
international speaker and author on the opioid crisis, medical
marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBT medicine. Dr.
Levine graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School
of Medicine. She completed her training in pediatrics and adolescent
medicine at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.