PHILADELPHIA - President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, leaving her poised to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
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.
"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."
HARRISBURG, PA,- MAY 16: Rachel Levine, MD, physician general for the state of Pennsylvania, dines with her mother Lillian Levine, in Harrisburg, PA, on May 16, 2016. Levine is transgender and has a close relationship with her mother. (Photo by Bonni
A graduate of Harvard and of Tulane Medical School, Levine is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She's written in the past on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBTQ medicine.
Biden and his transition team have already begun negotiating with members of Congress, promoting speedy passage of the president-elect's $1.9 trillion plan to bring the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 400,000 people in the United States, under control. It seeks to enlist federal emergency personnel to run mass vaccination centers and provide 100 immunization shots in his administration’s first 100 days while using government spending to stimulate the pandemic-hammered economy,
Biden also says that, in one of his first acts as president, he'll ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days to slow the virus' spread.
Levine joins Biden's Health and Human Services secretary nominee Xavier Becerra, a Latino politician who rose from humble beginnings to serve in Congress and as California’s attorney general.
Levine said in a statement said she is extremely proud of the work she accomplished under the Wolf administration.
"It has truly been an honor to serve the people of Pennsylvania under the leadership of Governor Tom Wolf. He is a tremendous leader with an incredible vision for Pennsylvania, and it has been a highlight of my career to serve in his administration.Since I began state service in 2015, I have been laser focused on building a healthy Pennsylvania for all and I am proud of the work we have done at the Department of Health during my tenure," Levine said.
She added, "Our work on addressing the opioid epidemic has saved lives and developed innovative models to get people into treatment and into recovery.I am proud of the work we have done to fight diseases such as HIV and Hep C, as well as preventing diseases through our childhood immunization programs.I am proud of the work we have done as an administration to address health equity, and the work I have done personally to raise awareness about LGBTQ equity issues.And I am extremely proud of the work we have done during the last year to save lives in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic.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."
In response to news of her pick, Gov. Tom Wolf released the following statement:
"I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Rachel Levine on her appointment by President-Elect Biden to serve as his assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Levine is a highly skilled and valued member of my administration and she will be greatly missed.
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."
Businessman Jeff Zients is Biden's coronavirus response coordinator, while Biden picked infectious-disease specialist Rochelle Walensky to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vivek Murthy as surgeon general and Yale epidemiologist Marcella Nunez-Smith to head a working group to ensure fair and equitable distribution of vaccines and treatments.
The government's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, will also work closely with the Biden administration.
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