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Biden Picks Rachel Levine For Assistant Health Secretary, Making Her First Openly Transgender Federal Official

Biden Picks Rachel Levine For Assistant Health Secretary, Making Her First Openly Transgender Federal Official
Posted at 10:05 AM, Jan 20, 2021

It’s looking likely that Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine will be President-elect Joe Biden’s assistant secretary of health, which would make her the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

“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.”

When pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general Levine was appointed to her current post by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017, she became one of the few transgender people serving in elected or appointed positions across the entire U.S. She’s a graduate of Harvard College and Tulane Medical School, is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and has written on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBTQ medicine.

On Jan. 19, Levine said in a statement that she is proud of the work she did to address health and LGBTQ equity issues in the state and that she is honored to have served the state of 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 in a tweet.

“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,” Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ statement said. “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.”

The Biden-Harris administration has made a strong commitment to diversity. In December, Biden nominated former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be his transportation secretary. If confirmed, Buttigieg would be the first Senate-confirmed LGBTQ Cabinet secretary.

Biden has also announced nominations of retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin as Defense Secretary, which would make him the first African-American to lead the Pentagon if he’s confirmed. And Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York was recently elected as the first African-American chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Additionally, the president’s economic team will include Janet Yellen, the first female Federal Reserve Chair; Neera Tanden, the first woman of color and South Asian American to head the Office of Management and Budget; and Wally Adeyemo, the first African-American to hold the second-ranking position at the Treasury Department. Cecilia Rouse will become the first Black woman to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and Rep. Deb Haaland will become the first Native American cabinet member if she’s confirmed as the Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

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