The president-elected on Tuesday nominated Levine to be assistant secretary for Health

By Claudia Harmata
January 19, 2021 04:21 PM
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From left: President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Rachel Levine
| Credit: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty; Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washin

President-elect Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that he was nominating Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine as his assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Levine would be the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the 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, 78, said in a statement.

"She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration's health efforts," he added.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, 56, also added in her own statement, "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."

Levine, a 64-year-old pediatrician, graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine. She is also a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine and will bring valuable experience to the position.

In 2015, she was chosen by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to be the state's physician general. Then she was confirmed as Pennsylvania Health Secretary in 2017 by the Republican-controlled state Senate.

In that role, she has been leading the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic this past year.

Dr. Rachel Levine
| Credit: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty

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"Dr. Levine is a highly skilled and valued member of my administration and she will be greatly missed," Wolf said in a statement Tuesday, according to Public Opinion."She has been a wise and dedicated partner during this pandemic and throughout her career with the commonwealth. I couldn't be prouder of the tireless work she's done to serve Pennsylvanians and protect the public health."

"During her tenure at the Department of Health, Dr. Levine was instrumental in establishing the state's medical marijuana program, bringing national awareness to opioid use disorder, and highlighting and promoting the need for adequate medical care and access for the LGBTQ community," he added. "Over the past year, her steady hand and calm approach were critical to managing Pennsylvania's response to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey wrote in a tweet on Tuesday that Levine was "exactly the kind of crisis-tested leader our Nation needs in the position of Assistant Secretary of Health."

"If confirmed, Dr. Levine will be the highest-ranking transgender official ever to serve in the federal government. I look forward to supporting her historic nomination," Casey added.

In her new role, Levine would be working alongside current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who Biden announced last month as his nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.