Joe Biden has chosen Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s health secretary, as his assistant secretary of health. Levine would be the first ever openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the US 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.
A graduate of Harvard and of Tulane Medical School, Levine is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She has written in the past on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBTQ medicine.
Levine is already one of the few transgender elected officials in the country. When she tapped by Wolf for health secretary, she said she sat down to have one-on-one conversations with officials to talk about medicine and public health, according to the Washington Post.
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.”
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.
A transition spokesperson also said Tuesday that Dawn O’Connell will serve as senior counselor for coronavirus response to the health and human services secretary. O’Connell most recently served as director of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and was the senior counselor and deputy chief of staff to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell during the Obama administration.