This article was published on January 19th, 2021
President-Elect Joe Biden has announced current Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine as his assistant secretary of health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Levine’s appointment as well as Pete Buttigieg’s as the upcoming Transportation Secretary is in line with Biden’s promise of a more diverse LGBTQ+ people at all levels of the administration. HHS has been under repeated attacks in recent years under President Trump and the current plan is to reinstall programs specifically targeted towards the LGBTQ+ community.
A pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, Dr. Levine was appointed to her current position by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017, making her one of the few transgender people serving in elected or appointed positions nationwide. Levine won past confirmation by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate and is regarded as the public face of the Pennsylvania’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Biden praised the doctor, stating:
“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.”
Dr. Levine was previously a professor at the Penn State College of Medicine and saw patients there and later at Hershey Medical Center, where she worked for nearly 20 years in adolescent medicine. In 2015, Levine accepted Mr. Wolf’s invitation to become physician general of Pennsylvania. Among her achievements is the signing of standing physician orders in 2015 to allow first responders and the general public access to the narcotic overdose antidote naloxone without a prescription. The order saved the lives of at least 2,300 people who would’ve otherwise died. Another signature achievement is her work on LGBTQ+ issues, which she has done as a public speaker and as part of her outreach work with government agencies.
Biden’s HHS team has already begun negotiating with members of Congress, promoting rapid passage of the President-Elect’s $1.9 trillion plan to bring COVID-19, which has killed nearly 500,000 people in the United States, under control. It seeks to enlist federal emergency personnel to run mass vaccination centers and provide 100 million immunization shots in his administration’s first 100 days while using government spending to stimulate the staggering economy.
Dr. Levine joins a team that includes HHS Secretary nominee Xavier Becerra, who previously served as California’s attorney general and in Congress, surgeon general Vivek Murthy, and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.