First transgender four-star officer sworn in as admiral of Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

A President Joe Biden appointee became the nation’s first transgender four-star officer and the nation’s highest-ranking transgender official when she was sworn in as an admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps on Tuesday. 

Admiral Rachel Levine will serve as head of the USPHS along while maintaining her position as Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Levine, 63, will lead the nearly 6,000-person force of public health professionals who respond to public health crises, including administering COVID vaccines,  and national emergencies on behalf of the federal government. 

‘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 with a broadcast of her swearing in. 

‘I promise to uphold that trust to the fullest extent of my abilities.’ 

Rachel Levine (left) became the nation's first transgender four-star officer and the nation's highest-ranking transgender official on Tuesday when she was sworn in by Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy of the U.S. Surgeon General's office (right)

Rachel Levine (left) became the nation's first transgender four-star officer and the nation's highest-ranking transgender official on Tuesday when she was sworn in by Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy of the U.S. Surgeon General's office (right)

Rachel Levine (left) became the nation’s first transgender four-star officer and the nation’s highest-ranking transgender official on Tuesday when she was sworn in by Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy of the U.S. Surgeon General’s office (right)

She was sworn in as an admiral of the nearly 6,000-person force U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (pictured)

She was sworn in as an admiral of the nearly 6,000-person force U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (pictured)

She was sworn in as an admiral of the nearly 6,000-person force U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (pictured) 

President Biden nominated Levine to the position in January while she was leading Pennsylvania's COVID response

President Biden nominated Levine to the position in January while she was leading Pennsylvania's COVID response

President Biden nominated Levine to the position in January while she was leading Pennsylvania’s COVID response

‘I’m proud to wear this uniform and lead the #USPHA #CommissionedCorps. The answer the call as warriors for our nation’s health,’ she posted in another tweet. 

She has announced that she plans to begin wearing the group’s blue uniform immediately. The U.S. Public Health Service is one of the nation’s eight uniformed services including the Air Force, Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Space Force, and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association.

Although Levine has never served as a sailor, the assistant secretary for health can be ranked as an admiral if they also serve as a uniformed officer of the USPHS Commissioned Corps. 

President Biden nominated Levine to the high ranking position in January continuing his pattern of selecting a historically diverse slate of leaders for senior administration roles.

Admiral Rachel  Levine Resume

Head of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps- 2021

Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services- 2021 

Secretary of Health for the Pennsylvania Department of Health – 2018 to 2021

Pennsylvania Physician General – 2015 to 2017

Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center – 1996 to 2021

Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City – 1983 to 1993 

Tulane University School of Medicine- Class of 1983

Harvard College- Class of 1979

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The professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine led Pennsylvania’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak as the commonwealth’s top health official.

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,’ Biden said in a statement.

She then made history in March when she became the first transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. 

‘Admiral Levine’s historic appointment as the first openly transgender four-star officer is a giant step forward toward equality as a nation,’ HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement- his appointment was also historic as he became the the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. 

‘This a proud moment for the HHS. Admiral Levine- a highly accomplished pediatrician who helps drive our agency’s agenda to boost health access and equity and to strengthen behavioral health- is a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America.’   

Prior to her appointment as admiral of the USPHS Commissioned Corps, Levine served as the Pennsylvania Department of Health secretary. Governor Tom Wolf appointed his deputy chief of staff, Alison Beam, to take over the public health position.

Levine released a statement on the day of her swearing in thanking Gov. Wolf for his leadership and highlighting the work she did at the Pennsylvania Department of Health secretary. 

‘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,’ she wrote. 

‘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.’

She went on to list some of her department’s accomplishments: ‘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.

Levine said her appointment is 'an extraordinary honor' and noted the immense importance of her job as the world continues to combat the COVID pandemic

Levine said her appointment is 'an extraordinary honor' and noted the immense importance of her job as the world continues to combat the COVID pandemic

Levine said her appointment is ‘an extraordinary honor’ and noted the immense importance of her job as the world continues to combat the COVID pandemic

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra noted Levine's appointment as 'a proud moment for the HHS'

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra noted Levine's appointment as 'a proud moment for the HHS'

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra noted Levine’s appointment as ‘a proud moment for the HHS’

‘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.’

Levine concluded: ‘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.’

Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Andrea Palm opened the swearing in ceremony announcing Levine’s appointment ‘as history is being made and to support a more diverse future.’

Levine was sworn in by Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy of the U.S. Surgeon General’s office. After taking the oath, she expressed her gratitude for being entrusted to the position calling it ‘an extraordinary honor.’

She noted that she was following in the footsteps of her father and two uncles in serving the nation as she works to protect the health of our nation ‘as we face the biggest public health crisis our country and the world has faced in modern times.’

The newly appointed admiral noted ‘the historic nature’ of what her position symbolizes and shared her hopes that ‘this appointment be the first of many more to come as we create a diverse and inclusive future’ where no one is left behind.

‘The health of our nation is [paramount. Everyone should be treated with love, respect, and compassion,’ she concluded. 

Levine was born Richard in Massachusetts in 1957 and attended a private boys school outside of Boston. She has talked openly about her transition remembering that even as a young child: ‘All I knew is I wanted to be a girl, or I was a girl, or female.’ 

Levine began going to therapy about 20 years ago and slowly began growing her hair and coming out to her colleagues, students, patients, friends, and family. 

She completed her transition in 2013 after undergoing ex reassignment surgery and hormonal treatment, according to PennLive

Before transitioning, Levine married Martha Peaslee while enrolled at Tulane and started a family. She reportedly remains close to her ex-wife, whom she divorced in 2013, and two adult children, Danya and David. 

‘Moving from one gender to another, especially in your 50s, is a challenge,’ Rachel Levine told the Washington Post. ‘But it was very rewarding.’ 

‘I’m very confident in who I am.’ 

In 2017 she was named to NBC Out’s national #Pride30 list, for her impact on the LGBTQ community. 

Link hienalouca.com

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