Biden selects transgender doctor as assistant health secretary
President-elect Joe Biden announced Tuesday he will select Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she will become the first openly transgender 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,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”
PA Gov. Tom Wolf (D) first appointed Levine as Pennsylvania’s physician general — the state’s top doctor — in 2015. Levine was appointed by Wolf in 2017 as acting health secretary. She was confirmed three times by the state Senate to serve as secretary of health and the state’s physician general.
In 2020, Levine became the public face of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Levine came under scrutiny in May 2020 for removing her 95-year-old mother from a personal care home amid a statewide coronavirus outbreak and transitioning her to another location.
Many criticized her for this decision, including York County state Rep. Seth Grove (R), saying that she’s done what many families are unable to do for financial or logistical reasons.
Shortly after this incident, Levine announced that she would begin testing every nursing home resident and staff member for coronavirus, a massive undertaking.
Some lawmakers called for the immediate resignation or removal of Levine from her position.
PA rep. Russ Diamond (R) cited “the horrific results of the department’s COVID-19 policy” in regard to the number of cases and deaths that occurred in nursing homes and other facilities under the department’s oversight. He introduced a resolution for her resignation.
PA state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), also called for Levine’s resignation, saying she committed the equivalent of policy malpractice in her handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its spread through nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Still, Gov. Wolf defended Levine, saying, “My assessment of Dr. Levine is that she is doing a phenomenal job, and I think we’ve got to be careful about blaming the messenger for the message.”