PENNSYLVANIA, USA — One day before his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden nominated Dr. Rachel Levine to be his Assistant Secretary of Health.
In a statement, Dr. Levine said, "I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve Pennsylvanians, and all Americans, as part of the Biden Administration if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed to this position."
It could make her the first transgender woman to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and LGBTQ advocates here in Pennsylvania are celebrating.
"It's just really special to learn that the Biden-Harris, administration who have said they are committed to diversity and inclusion have actually taken actions to honor that. They're not just saying it, they're doing it, acknowledging that there is such an exceptional candidate in Dr. Rachel Levine," said Anthony Melf, NEPA Rainbow Alliance.
Governor Wolf appointed Dr. Levine as Secretary of Health in 2017. Prior to that, she was Pennsylvania's Physician General. She is credited with saving hundreds of lives of opioid users who have overdosed. She signed the order that allows law enforcement officers to carry an anti-overdose medication.
More recently, she has become a familiar face, leading Pennsylvanians through the pandemic, for months answering our questions about COVID 19. In a statement released by Governor Tom Wolf, he said, "her work for our commonwealth has been transformational, and I appreciate it more than I can say. I and the people of Pennsylvania owe her a debt of gratitude for her leadership, strength, and dedication to protecting every person's health amid unprecedented circumstances – and, at times, amid hateful distractions."
LGBTQ advocates say her focus on keeping Pennsylvanians safe, despite those hateful distractions, is likely just one of the many reasons she was selected by President-elect Biden.
"To her credit, she looked past that. She took the high road and really focused on her role as Secretary of Health in Pennsylvania in protecting Pennsylvanians, no matter critic or supporter. I think that speaks to her character and her professionalism," Melf said.
President-elect Joe Biden said Dr. Levine is a "historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration's health efforts."
This appointment would make Dr. Levine the highest-ranking transgender official in the U.S. Government.
"We do hope someday, with her historic appointment, that more transgender individuals will be appointed to similar posts that that will no longer need to be the headline," Melf explained.
Dr. Levine said, "it has truly been an honor to serve the people of Pennsylvania under the leadership of Governor Tom Wolf. He is a tremendous leader with an incredible vision for Pennsylvania, and it has been a highlight of my career to serve in his administration."