Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine has been nominated to serve as assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
President-elect Joe Biden’s team announced the appointment Tuesday morning. Levine will still need 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. She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts,” Biden said in a statement.
Levine has served in Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration since 2015 and was approved by the Republican-controlled state senate to become health secretary in 2018. She has led the state through the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 19,300 Pennsylvanians.
The Associated Press reported that Levine will be the first openly transgender federal official if her appointment is confirmed. She is presently one of only a few transgender Americans serving in high-profile government roles in the nation.
Levine, who has two children, graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine. She completed training in pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Before becoming health secretary, Levine worked at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, where she specialized in adolescent medicine and eating disorders.
She faced criticism last year for removing her elderly mother from a personal care home as COVID-19 ravaged long-term care centers throughout the state. Levine noted that it was her mother’s choice to be released, that personal care homes are not overseen by her agency and that they are different from long-term care centers.