President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, who has led the state’s COVID-19 response, as assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services. Levine, a transgender woman, is also the parent of two grown children. Her nomination comes days after President Trump’s HHS finalized a rule that would allow schools to misgender and discriminate against transgender students. Do you sense change?
Dr. Levine currently serves as Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is leading the state’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Levine was confirmed three times by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania state senate as secretary of health and the state’s physician general. She would become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
She is the President of ASTHO, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and the Academy for Eating Disorders. She joined Governor Tom Wolf’s administration in January 2015 as the physician general of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and served from 2015 to 2017. She was named acting secretary of health in July 2017 and confirmed as secretary of health in March 2018. Her previous posts included: vice-chair for clinical affairs for the Department of Pediatrics and chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
Dr. 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, completing her training in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
She’s spoken often to LGBTQ groups, including a keynote address at Philadelphia Family Pride’s 6th Annual Family Matters Conference for LGBTQ parented-families in 2015.
A 2016 Washington Post profile of her related, “Levine said her children, who are now in college, were very accepting of her transition.” And of her own mother, Levine told the Post, “She said ‘I love you unconditionally and so I accept you,’ and I started to cry.” Levine’s mother “moved to Pennsylvania about seven years ago to be closer to Rachel and her children. The two dine out together multiple times a week and have a standing date for Sunday brunch.”
The Advocate reported last March that Levine was working more than 10 hours a day, seven days a week, in response to the pandemic, and told them, “I want to be judged upon my work in medicine and in public health and in this difficult time, in my work to help to protect the public health in the face of this global pandemic. It doesn’t make any difference what someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation is. We’re really all in this together.”
President-elect Joe Biden said in a statement, “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.”
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris added, “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. 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.”