Adrian Shanker's Blog

Biden nominates Pa.’s Dr. Rachel Levine for assistant secretary of health

by Sasha Cassi
Lehigh Valley Live
January 19th, 2021

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine to serve in his cabinet.

On Monday, Biden announced he wants Levine to serve as the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services. The president-elect cited Levine’s work on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If approved, Levine would be the first openly transgender senate-confirmed federal official.

“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,” Biden said in a news release.

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.”

Biden has nominated Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, as Health and Human Services secretary and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, a Harvard infectious disease expert, to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A graduate of Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine, Levine completed her training in pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

She worked at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, before joining Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration in January 2015 as the physician general of Pennsylvania.

Levine was named acting secretary of health in July 2017 and confirmed as secretary in March 2018.

Congratulations from Pennsylvania officials included Gov. Tom Wolf, who said Levine 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” Wolf said in a news release. “Over the past year, her steady hand and calm approach were critical to managing Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, welcomed the news and said Levine has helped save countless lives through her work on both the opioid epidemic and COVID-19.

“She is a dedicated public servant, a public health expert, and a compassionate leader who is well-prepared to go to Washington to improve public health for the American people,” he said in a released statement.

More than making history, “Dr. Levine will make a difference in the lives of LGBTQ Americans, and all Americans through her innovative approaches and her unabated dedication to public health,” Shanker said.

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Sarah Cassi may be reached at [email protected].

Adrian Shanker is an award-winning activist and organizer whose career has centered on advancing progress for the LGBT community. He has worked as an arts fundraiser, labor organizer, marketing manager, and served as President of Equality Pennsylvania for three years before founding Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, PA, where he serves as executive director. An accomplished organizer, Adrian has led numerous successful campaigns to advance LGBT progress through municipal nondiscrimination and relationship recognition laws and laws to protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy. A specialist in LGBT health policy, he has developed leading-edge health promotion campaigns to advance health equity through behavioral, clinical, and policy changes.

Rachel L. Levine, MD, is the secretary of health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and the Academy for Eating Disorders. She is a member of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. She is also a board member and executive committee member of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Dr. Levine joined Governor Tom Wolf’s administration in January 2015 as the physician general of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and, upon her appointment, became the first transgender person to hold a cabinet position in Pennsylvania. In 2017, she was named the acting secretary of health and in 2018 was confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate as the Secretary of Health. She leads the LGBTQ Policy Workgroup and advocates for LGBT rights for the Wolf Administration. Dr. Levine is also an accomplished regional and international speaker and author on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBT medicine. Dr. Levine graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine. She completed her training in pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

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