by Grace Griffaton
January 19th, 2020
If confirmed, Dr. Levine would have a national platform as assistant health secretary and become the highest ranking transgender official in United States government
LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — History in the making: President-Elect Joe
Biden has picked Pennsylvania’s top health official to be the next
assistant health secretary for his administration.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Dr. Rachel Levine would become the first openly transgender federal official.
“We absolutely need to get vaccines into arms,” said Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, during a news conference last year.
People have seen Dr. Levine’s face time and time again as she has led
the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If confirmed by the U.S.
Senate, Dr. Levine would have a national platform as assistant health
secretary and become the highest ranking transgender official in United
The Harvard College graduate is also a professor of pediatrics and
psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine and president of the
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
“LGBTQ Pennsylvanians are beaming with pride today because Dr. Levine
is a historic nominee,” said Adrian Shanker, Executive Director of
Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. “I’ve been friends with Dr.
Levine for a decade, and I’ve worked with her for many, many years.”
Shanker says Dr. Levine will make more than history.
“She will be making a difference, because she is uniquely qualified, immensely qualified,” he added.
First joining Governor Wolf’s Administration in 2015, Dr. Levine has
been confirmed three times by the republican-controlled state senate as
secretary of health and physician general.
Over the years, she helped establish the state’s medical marijuana
program, focused on opioid use disorder, and promoted the need for
adequate medical care and access for the LGBTQ community.
In a statement, Governor Wolf thanked and congratulated Dr. Levine:
“Dr. Levine is a highly skilled and valued member of my
administration and she will be greatly missed. 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,” stated Gov.
Wolf. “Over the past year, her steady hand and calm approach were
critical to managing Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Gov. Wolf says Dr. Levine’s work for the Commonwealth has been
transformational. He says people owe Dr. Levine a debt of gratitude for
her leadership and protecting every person’s health amid unprecedented
times. Gov. Wolf adds Dr. Levine is both competent and compassionate,
and she never lets anger or fear of others sway her from her goals.
Shanker notes how Dr. Levine handled criticism of being a transgender woman in state government.
“I have no room in my heart for hatred, and frankly, I do not have time for intolerance,” Dr. Levine previously said to FOX43.
“Pennsylvanians were hearing the transphobia loud and clear, and the
bullying needed to stop. This is what a dedicated public servant does.
They stand up for marginalized communities, and they get back to doing
their job,” said Shanker.
Ruben Gonzales, Executive Director of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said the following about the upcoming confirmation process:
“Dr. Levine is one of the foremost experts on responding to this
pandemic and our community is united in standing with her for the
confirmation fight ahead. We know transphobic members of the U.S. Senate
will try to block her nomination because of her gender identity –
ignoring her qualifications to try and score political points with
extremists in their political base. But our Presidential Appointments
Initiative coalition of more than 30 LGBTQ and allied organizations is
ready to fight like hell to defend Dr. Levine and ensure she is judged
on her qualifications and nothing else. The majority of Americans want
whoever is best prepared to fight this pandemic and that person is Dr.
“Dr. Levine is one of the foremost experts on responding to this pandemic and our community is united in standing with her for the confirmation fight ahead. We know transphobic members of the U.S. Senate will try to block her nomination because of her gender identity – ignoring her qualifications to try and score political points with extremists in their political base. But our Presidential Appointments Initiative coalition of more than 30 LGBTQ and allied organizations is ready to fight like hell to defend Dr. Levine and ensure she is judged on her qualifications and nothing else. The majority of Americans want whoever is best prepared to fight this pandemic and that person is Dr. Levine.”
President-Elect Biden nominated Dr. Levine for U.S. Asst. Secretary of Health; Coalition of more than 30 LGBTQ and allied organizations united in defending her confirmation Washington, DC – President-elect Joe Biden nominated Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine to be the U.S.
Victory Institute’s Presidential Appointments Initiative, a coalition
of 32 LGBTQ and allied organizations, will put forward hundreds of
exemplary LGBTQ candidates for positions throughout the next
administration and advocate for their consideration. According to a
release issued by the institute, it aims to help the Biden transition
team in creating the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration in U.S.
For now, it’s unclear who will take Dr. Levine’s place in the interim or permanently as officials would not comment.
Dr. Levine declined an interview but released a statement on the nomination:
“It has truly been an honor to serve the people of Pennsylvania
under the leadership of Governor Tom Wolf. He is a tremendous leader
with an incredible vision for Pennsylvania, and it has been a highlight
of my career to serve in his administration.
Since I began state service in 2015, I have been laser focused on
building a healthy Pennsylvania for all and I am proud of the work we
have done at the Department of Health during my tenure.
Our work on addressing the opioid epidemic has saved lives and
developed innovative models to get people into treatment and into
I am proud of the work we have done to fight diseases such as HIV
and Hep C, as well as preventing diseases through our childhood
I am proud of the work we have done as an administration to
address health equity, and the work I have done personally to raise
awareness about LGBTQ equity issues.
And 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.
I 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 holds degrees from Harvard College and Tulane University
School of Medicine. She completed her training in pediatrics and
adolescent medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York.
Biden’s selection of Dr. Levine comes just days after choosing David
A. Kessler, M.D., FAAP, as chief science officer of COVID response.
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.