Jan 19, 2021 - Health

Biden's pick for key health role could be first transgender official confirmed by Senate

Rachel Levine.

Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to serve as assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, the transition team announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: Levine would make history as the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Biden has pledged to assemble the most diverse Cabinet in U.S. history in order to reflect the country's demographics.

Background: Levine, who is a graduate of Harvard and of Tulane Medical School, has helped lead Pennsylvania's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She previously served as the state's physician general.

  • She would step into national government as the pandemic continues to ravage much of the country, with over 400,000 U.S. deaths likely to be recorded by the time Biden is inaugurated on Wednesday.
  • Biden has promised to ramp up the nation's response to the virus, including with a plan to vaccinate 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of his presidency.

What they're saying: “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.”

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