President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of healthpositioning her to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, a Seattle Times article reported.
A pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, Levine was appointed to her current post by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017, making her one of the few transgender people serving in elected or appointed positions nationwide. She won past confirmation by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate and has emerged as the public face of the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
A graduate of Harvard and of Tulane Medical School, Levine is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
According to Pennsylvania's Department of Health website, Levine is a regional and international speaker as well as an author on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBTQ medicine.
Several LGBTQ+ leaders commented on Levine's selection.
National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey about Levine's selection. Carey said, "Dr. Levine is imminently qualified to serve as assistant secretary at Health and Human Services. Her work in Pennsylvania was exemplary and impactful to the health of all Pennsylvanians.
"When the National LGBTQ Task Force praised the nomination of Pete Buttigieg as Transportation Secretary, we said it should the 'the first of many firsts,' and this is exactly what we meant. The appointment of more diverse LGBTQ people at all level of the administration is imperative and that includes trans and non-binary people and people of color.
"We are thrilled that Dr. Levine has been nominated, especially at HHS, where the LGBTQ community has been under serious attack by the outgoing administration. She has served Pennsylvania well and when the Senate confirms her, she will serve the country well, attending to the health needs of all Americans."
National LGBT Cancer Network Executive Director NFN Scout said in a separate statement, "As another trans leader in public health, I am thrilled to see such a revered member of my own community be this successful, yet it is my greatest wish that the U.S. Senate base their approval on her qualifications. The fact that she is trans is an inspiration for the many of us who have never had a role model this senior before. The fact that she is supremely qualified means her trans status, while historic and inspirational, should not be a factor in her confirmation."
LGBTQ Victory Institute President & CEO Mayor Annise Parker said, "Our nation is fortunate to have Dr. Rachel Levine nominated for a position so important to ending this pandemic and her experience on the frontlines in Pennsylvania will prove invaluable as Assistant Secretary. Her nomination is groundbreaking and shows the Biden administration will choose the most qualified individuals to lead our nation regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Dr. Levine is making history and will transform Americans' perceptions of trans people when she takes office and begins to work on their behalf."
Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David stated, "With the reported historic nomination of Dr. Rachel Levine as Assistant Secretary of Health, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have continued to keep their promise to create an administration that reflects the diversity and life experiences of America."
And National Coalition for LGBT Health Executive Director Brian Hujdich said, "Dr. Levine has raised awareness about the disproportionate impact of mental health on the LGBTQ community. She has further helped expand protections for the community by working with various Departments in the Commonwealth to ensure inclusivity and greater health coverage. Dr. Levine also has focused on the needs of marginalized populations throughout the ongoing opioid crisis."