January 23, 2021
From PM Press

By Tim Cwiek
Philadelphia Gay News
January 19th, 2021

Trans advocates are lauding President-elect Joe Biden’s announcement
he will nominate Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant secretary for health at
the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. If confirmed by the U.S.
Senate, Levine will oversee the department’s key public health offices
and programs, numerous presidential and secretarial advisory committees,
10 regional health offices across the nation, the Office of the Surgeon
General and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Since 2017, Levine has served as Pennsylvania’s secretary of health,
where she leads the state’s fight against COVID-19. She’s also a
professor at the Penn State College of Medicine. Levine began her
medical career as a pediatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New

“I want to congratulate my good friend Dr. Levine on her nomination,”
said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for
Transgender Equality. “She has demonstrated her commitment to public
service and is highly skilled. She has earned the chance to serve our
country at the highest levels. We look forward to more transgender and
non-binary Americans being appointed in the new Biden administration.”

Larry Benjamin, spokesperson for Mazzoni Center, called Levine’s
selection “a wonderful acknowledgement of Dr. Levine’s skills and
leadership. We will certainly miss her and the expertise and leadership
she brought to her role as Pennsylvania’s secretary of health but
support her entrance onto the national stage where we know she will make
amazing contributions. We’d also like to commend the incoming Biden
administration for modeling what diversity and inclusion in government
can look like.” 

Adrian E. Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, added his voice to the chorus of praise.

“Dr. Rachel Levine’s leadership in Harrisburg has saved countless
lives from both the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Shanker
said, in a statement. “She is a dedicated public servant, a public
health expert, and a compassionate leader who is well-prepared to go to
Washington to improve public health for the American people. As a
transgender woman, Dr. Levine will make history as the first trans
person to receive Senate confirmation [for a federal office]. 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. We should all be proud of the
Biden-Harris administration for this historic nomination of Dr. Levine,
and we should all encourage her swift confirmation by the U.S. Senate.”

Jason Landau Goodman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, called Levine “a Pennsylvania treasure.”

“Dr. Levine is a Pennsylvania treasure and now the nation will
benefit from her expertise,” Goodman told PGN. “As she has in
Pennsylvania, she will remain laser-focused on the mission to safeguard
the health and well-being of all people. She will continue to provide
specific attention to the health of vulnerable communities, including
LGBTQ people. I’ve known Dr. Levine for over a decade and have always
been inspired by her leadership, authenticity, and wisdom,” 

Deja Alvarez, a local trans advocate, said “Pennsylvania’s loss will be America’s gain.”

“I think it’s amazing that Dr. Levine has been nominated by
President-elect Biden,” Alvarez told PGN. “It’s about time this country
realizes it’s time for us to stop worrying about someone’s gender or
race or ethnicity or identity or sexual orientation and focus on their
qualifications. It will be amazing to have an actually-qualified person
in this position — especially after the last four years of so many
unqualified people holding national positions.” 

Gov. Tom Wolf commended Levine’s selection, which was announced Jan. 19.

“Dr. Levine is a highly skilled and valued member of my
administration and she will be greatly missed,” Wolf said, 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.”

Wolf noted Levine’s many accomplishments. “During her tenure at the
Department of Health, Dr. Levine was instrumental in establishing the
state’s medical marijuana program, bringing national awareness to opioid
use disorder, and highlighting and promoting the need for adequate
medical care and access for the LGBTQ community,” Wolf said. “Over the
past year, her steady hand and calm approach were critical to managing
Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Wolf also praised Levine’s strength despite transphobic attacks by
her critics. “Her work for our commonwealth has been transformational
and I appreciate it more than I can say,” Wolf continued. “I and the
people of Pennsylvania owe her a debt of gratitude for her leadership,
strength and dedication to protecting every person’s health amid
unprecedented circumstances — and, at times, amid hateful distractions.
Dr. Levine is both competent and compassionate, and never lets the anger
or fear of others sway her from her goals. Thank you, Dr. Levine, for
your commitment, your example, and your legacy.”

In a statement, President-elect Joe Biden lauded Levine’s attributes.
“Dr. 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. She is a historic and deeply-qualified
choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts,” Biden said.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris echoed Biden’s sentiments. “Dr.
Rachel Levine is a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and
experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the
health and well-being of the American people,” Harris said, in a
statement. “President-elect Biden and I look forward to working with her
to meet the unprecedented challenges facing Americans and rebuild our
country in a way that lifts everyone up.”

Levine is a graduate of Harvard College and the Tulane University
School of Medicine. In addition to her work with children and
adolescents, Levine’s expertise includes work on the opioid crisis,
medical marijuana, eating disorders and LGBT medicine, according to her
official biography.

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.

Back to Adrian Shanker’s Author Page

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