Biden taps Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s top public health official, for federal post

Levine, an openly transgender woman, is an alumna of Tulane med school

In this screenshot of a Jan. 4 press conference, Pennsylvania's Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine gives an update on that state's COVID-19 numbers.

President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Pennsylvania’s top public health official for a cabinet-level post, the incoming administration said early Tuesday.

Biden has named state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine as his assistant health secretary, putting her on track to become the first openly transgender official to face confirmation by the U.S. Senate. The news was first reported by the Associated Press.

In a statement, Biden said Levine, a pediatrician by training, 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.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris called Levine “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 was named the state’s physician general in 2015 by Gov. Tom Wolf, ascending to acting health secretary in 2017. She won Senate confirmation as health secretary in 2018.

Levine has faced both criticism and praise for her management of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Keystone State. As a transgender woman, she’s been the subject of online bigotry that she’s forcefully batted back.

Levine graduated from Tulane’s medical school in 1983.  Following her appointment as Pennsylvania’s physician general, she told Tulane News she was pleased to be seen as a role model for young people in the LGBTQ community. “I think that that”s an important role that I serve, but it”s not the only role that I serve — and not really the primary role. My role is to help the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with public health issues.”

Editor Jarvis DeBerry contributed to this report.

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