Dr. Rachel Levine, the Pennsylvania health secretary guiding the state through the COVID-19 crisis, has been tapped by the Biden administration as assistant secretary of health for the Department of Health and Human Services.
If confirmed by the Senate, Levine would break a glass ceiling as the first federal trans official confirmed by the Senate, a chamber now narrowly controlled by Democrats. President-elect Biden previously nominated California attorney general Xavier Becerra as secretary of health for HHS; Becerra would be the first Latino in the role.
Levine has endured intolerance and bigotry in her role as Pennsylvania’s top health official, but is widely respected for her composure and intelligence. A graduate of Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine, Levine trained in pediatrics and adolescent medicine at New York City’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. She previously served as physician general and assistant health secretary for Pennsylvania before being tapped as health secretary by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2018. In addition to her government posts, Levine is president-elect of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. She is a trusted national speaker on issues ranging from the opioid crisis to LGBTQ+ health issues.
Even in the early days of the pandemic, Levine urged Pennsylvanians to “stay home, stay calm, and stay safe” and offered regular briefings on how the state was managing the crisis.
Both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris released statements praising Levine.
“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,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”
Harris called Levine “a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience” to help control the COVID-19 pandemic.