KEY POINTS

  • Levine serves as the health secretary for Pennsylvania
  • Her appointment earned public praise
  • She’s just one of a diverse set of Cabinet-level officials appointed by Biden

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday cited the public-health track record of Dr. Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender person ever to be nominated for such a high-ranking government position. Levine was nominated to serve as the assistant health secretary in the new administration alongside Health and Human Services Secretary-nominee Xavier Becerra.

Biden's transition team described Levine as a “deeply experienced” public servant who will help the national response to the pandemic.

“She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts,” the president-elect said in a statement.

Levine is the current health secretary for Pennsylvania, serving previously as the physician general under Gov. Tom Wolf, a role to which she had unanimous support in the state Senate. She’s tasked with helping to lead the state response to the COVID-19 pandemic, urging state residents in November to don face masks at home just as new cases were surging again.

A graduate of Harvard and Tulane University, Levine trained in pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first openly transgender person to serve at the Cabinet level.

Her nomination was met with praise by elected officials. Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said from his Twitter account that Levine was “exactly the kind of crisis-tested leader our Nation needs in the position of Assistant Secretary of Health.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, described Levine as an “accomplished physician” who played a frontline role in helping to save lives during the pandemic.

Levine made controversial moves early in the pandemic when she pulled her 95-year-old mother out of a care facility at a time with elderly patients at long-term care centers saw COVID-19 racing through their facilities. Levine at the time said her mother was fully capable of making her own decisions.

The Biden team has made a point of nominating a diverse Cabinet  Pete Buttigieg — the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a 2020 presidential contender — could join the administration as the transportation secretary, becoming the first openly gay Cabinet secretary, if his nomination is approved in the Senate.

Dr. Rachel Levine would be the first transgender Cabinet official if confirmed to serve in the Biden administration. Dr. Rachel Levine would be the first transgender Cabinet official if confirmed to serve in the Biden administration. Photo: Biden-Harris transition team