Levine is a pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general and was appointed to her current post by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017.

WASHINGTON (AP/KDKA) – President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, leaving her poised to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate.

Levine is a pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general and was appointed to her current post by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017.

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Levine is one of the few transgender people serving in elected or appointed positions nationwide.

Levine 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.

“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.”

A graduate of Harvard and of Tulane Medical School, Levine is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She’s written in the past on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBTQ medicine.

Levine released a statement Tuesday afternoon:

“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.

Since I began state service in 2015, I have been laser focused on building a healthy Pennsylvania for all and I am proud of the work we have done at the Department of Health during my tenure.

Our work on addressing the opioid epidemic has saved lives and developed innovative models to get people into treatment and into recovery.

I am proud of the work we have done to fight diseases such as HIV and Hep C, as well as preventing diseases through our childhood immunization programs.

I am proud of the work we have done as an administration to address health equity, and the work I have done personally to raise awareness about LGBTQ equity issues.

And I am extremely proud of the work we have done during the last year to save lives in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

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.”

Biden and his transition team have already begun negotiating with members of Congress, promoting speedy passage of the president-elect’s $1.9 trillion plan to bring the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 400,000 people in the United States, under control. It seeks to enlist federal emergency personnel to run mass vaccination centers and provide 100 immunization shots in his administration’s first 100 days while using government spending to stimulate the pandemic-hammered economy,

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Biden also says that, in one of his first acts as president, he’ll ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days to slow the virus’ spread.

Levine joins Biden’s Health and Human Services secretary nominee Xavier Becerra, a Latino politician who rose from humble beginnings to serve in Congress and as California’s attorney general.

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.

Sen. Bob Casey, of Pennsylvania, released this statement in support of Levine’s nomination:

“As Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine has worked to save lives and protect our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is exactly the kind of crisis-tested leader our Nation needs in the position of Assistant Secretary of Health at the Department of Health and Human Services during this difficult time for our Nation. In addition to her leadership as Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Dr. Levine is also a nationally renowned medical practitioner. 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 also the President of ASTHO, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Prior to her service as Secretary of Health for Pennsylvania, Dr. Levine served as the Physician General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“If confirmed, Dr. Levine will be the highest-ranking transgender official ever to serve in the federal government. I look forward to supporting her historic nomination.”

Gov. Tom Wolf has released this statement:

“I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Rachel Levine on her appointment by President-Elect Biden to serve as his assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Dr. Levine is a highly skilled and valued member of my administration and she will be greatly missed. She 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.

“During her tenure at the Department of Health, Dr. Levine was instrumental in establishing the state’s medical marijuana program, bringing national awareness to opioid use disorder, and highlighting and promoting the need for adequate medical care and access for the LGBTQ community. Over the past year, her steady hand and calm approach were critical to managing Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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. Dr. Levine is both competent and compassionate, and never lets the anger or fear of others sway her from her goals.

“Thank you, Dr. Levine, for your commitment, your example, and your legacy.”

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