President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Dr. Rachel Levine to serve as assistant health secretary, and she would make history as the first out, transgender federal official to be confirmed by the United States Senate, according to a statement Tuesday.
Levine is currently the Pennsylvania health secretary and a pediatrics and psychiatry professor at Penn State College of Medicine. She served as the state’s physician general in 2015 and assistant health secretary in 2017. Levine was confirmed as the state’s health secretary in 2018 under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration.
Throughout her career, Levine has written about the opioid crisis, LGBTQ medicine, medicinal marijuana, eating disorders and adolescent 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.
“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.”
Levine said in a statement later Tuesday 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 Pennsylvanians.
“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.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris praised Levine as “a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience” to help contain the coronavirus pandemic and “protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people.”
Levine joins other Biden administration nominees who would make history if confirmed by the Senate to serve in top roles, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra who has been tapped to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Becerra would be the first Latino to lead the department if confirmed by the Senate.
In December, Biden nominated former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be his transportation secretary. Buttigieg would be the first Senate-confirmed LGBTQ Cabinet secretary should his nomination make it through the chamber.
Biden’s nomination of Levine was celebrated by leading LGBTQ advocacy groups on Tuesday, including the National Center for Transgender Equality, whose executive director, Mara Keisling, said Biden has “made clear that transgender people are an important part of our country.”
Levine “has demonstrated her commitment to public service and is highly skilled. She has earned the chance to serve our country at the highest levels,” Keisling said in a statement.
Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, also praised Biden’s pick, writing in a tweet that Levine “has been a model for skilled and compassionate leadership during one of our nation’s greatest crises.”
Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, also applauded Levine’s nomination as “groundbreaking” in a statement Tuesday, adding it “shows the Biden administration will choose the most qualified individuals to lead our nation regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”