Assistant health secretary Rachel Levine is first transgender four-star officer

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Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine made history Tuesday by becoming the first openly transgender four-star officer in America’s eight uniformed services.

Levine, 63, was ceremonially sworn in as an admiral in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps by Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.

“I am deeply honored & grateful to join the ranks of men & women across this great nation who have committed to defend the United States against small & large threats, known and unknown,” Levine tweeted upon her swearing-in. “I promise to uphold that trust to the fullest extent of my abilities.”

“Admiral Levine’s historic appointment as the first openly transgender four-star officer is a giant step forward towards equality as a nation. This is a proud moment for us at HHS,” department secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

Becerra went on to describe Levine as “a highly accomplished pediatrician who helps drive our agency’s agenda to boost health access and equity and to strengthen behavioral health” and “a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America.”

Founded in 1889, the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is the uniformed branch of the US Public Health Service, which dates back to 1798 when it was known as the Marine Hospital Fund. According to HHS, Public Health Service officers “serve throughout the nation in communities that are most in need by providing health care to underserved and vulnerable populations or advancing practice, policy, or research.”

Dr. Rachel Levine is sworn in by Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
Dr. Rachel Levine is sworn in by Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
via REUTERS

President Biden nominated Levine as assistant secretary for health in February of this year and she was narrowly confirmed by the Senate the following month. She is the first transgender person to hold an office that requires Senate confirmation.

Levine had previously spent three-and-a-half years as Pennsylvania’s health secretary, where she oversaw the Keystone State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During her confirmation process, Levine was criticized by some Republicans for being in charge when her department ordered COVID-19 patients to be readmitted to nursing homes — similar to the scandal that enveloped the administration of former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.



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