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Joe Biden picks transgender doctor Rachel Levine as assistant secretary for health

In his announcement, President-elect Biden characterized Dr. Levine as a tireless leader who will meet the public-health needs of all Americans, "no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability."

Joe Biden picks transgender doctor Rachel Levine as assistant secretary for health
Cover Image Source: Biden transition team

Editor's Note: This article was published just hours before Joe Biden's inauguration, so some of the information provided here may not be in sync with the latest developments.  

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Pennsylvania health expert Dr. Rachel Levine to be assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services, setting her up to become the first openly transgender federal official to be approved by the US Senate. According to NPR, she currently serves as Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and also leads the state's public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Levine, a professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine, reportedly began her medical career as a pediatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

 



 

 

"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 in a press release announcing Dr. Levine's nomination. "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," said Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

 



 

 

"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," she added. Dr. Levine previously won state Senate confirmation in Pennsylvania — including a unanimous vote in 2015 to endorse her as Pennsylvania's physician general — and eventually rose to the role of secretary of health with the state Senate's approval. As assistant secretary, Dr. Levine would serve under Xavier Becerra, Biden's nominee for secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, who would be the first Latino to run that department.

 



 

 

Over the course of her illustrious career, Dr. Levine has written about the opioid crisis, LGBTQ medicine, medicinal marijuana, eating disorders, and adolescent medicine, reports CNN. She graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine and completed her training in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. In a statement addressing her nomination on Tuesday, Dr. Levine said that she is proud of the work she did to address health and LGBTQ equity issues in Pennsylvania.

 



 

 

"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," she said. Biden's nomination of Levine was celebrated by leading LGBTQ advocacy groups of the likes of the National Center for Transgender Equality, whose executive director, Mara Keisling, said that the president-elect has "made clear that transgender people are an important part of our country." Keisling added that Dr. Levine "has demonstrated her commitment to public service and is highly skilled. She has earned the chance to serve our country at the highest levels."

 



 

 

Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, also praised Biden's pick in a tweet that reads: "Dr. Levine has been a model for skilled and compassionate leadership during one of our nation's greatest crises. If confirmed, she would break down barriers for our community while improving the welfare of our entire nation." Meanwhile, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker — who is the president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Institute — applauded Levine's nomination as "groundbreaking" in a statement that said it "shows the Biden administration will choose the most qualified individuals to lead our nation regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."

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