Biden taps Pennsylvania’s Dr. Rachel Levine for assistant health secretary, making history
The honored guest at AL Día’s Top Doctors event will make history, opening the door for the first openly transgender official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Pennsylvania’s Health Secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, has spent the last year leading the state through one of the worst global health disasters in modern history. Now, she will take that position on a national level as President-elect Biden has selected her to serve as Assistant Health Secretary, under Health Secretary-elect Xavier Becerra in his administration.
Levine, a pediatrician by practice, is Pennsylvania’s top health official. Once confirmed, she will become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Before she was swept atop the national stage, Levine served as Pennsylvania’s Physician General from 2015 to 2017. In that role, she battled the ongoing opioid crisis by invoking her seldom-used power of “standing order” for naloxone (Narcan).
She has held her State Secretary of Health position for more than three years after an appointment by Governor Tom Wolf in 2017.
Since then, Levine has made headlines in her ongoing battle through the COVID-19 pandemic, and soon, she will be featured as an honored guest in AL DÍA's 2021 Top Doctors Forum to celebrate the achievements of Latino doctors in the region.
The heightened attention came with its pitfalls, as she became a target of attacks on her gender identity. Throughout the pandemic, state leaders and health officials like Levine have been disparaged by opponents of shut-down orders and social distancing regulations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought hate and transphobia into the spotlight through relentless comments and slurs directed at Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, who is a highly skilled, valued, and capable member of my administration,” Gov. Wolf wrote in a statement in July 2020.
Biden also made it clear that her history speaks for itself.
“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 the press announcement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”
The release also emphasized that Levine was confirmed three times by Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled state Senate to serve as secretary of health and state’s physician general.
In PA, she received nothing but praise from state leaders.
“@SecretaryLevine is the best of the best. Pennsylvania’s loss is America’s gain,” wrote State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta on Twitter. “I’m incredibly proud to see her take this next step and I know she will bring the same steady leadership to Washington that I’ve seen for years in Harrisburg!”
@SecretaryLevine is the best of the best. Pennsylvania’s loss is America’s gain.
I’m incredibly proud to see her take this next step and I know she will bring the same steady leadership to Washington that I’ve seen for years in Harrisburg! https://t.co/Ocr0bV0nfo
— Rep. Malcolm ‘Wear A Mask’ Kenyatta (@malcolmkenyatta) January 19, 2021
In conjunction with her recent appointments, Levine is also an accomplished regional and international speaker, and author on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBTQ+ medicine.
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.
Catch her in AL DÍA Top Doctors here.