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The First Transgender Assistant Health Secretary

On Tuesday, Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine became the first openly Transgender four-star officer in the United States’ eight uniformed forces. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy swore Levine, 63, in as an admiral in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Becerra called Levine a treasured and vital partner in our work to build a healthier America and a highly accomplished pediatrician who helps drive our agency’s objective to enhance health access and equity and promote behavioral health.

The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, established in 1889, is the uniformed part of the United States Public Health Service, founded in 1798 as the Marine Hospital Fund. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service officers provide health care to disadvantaged and vulnerable people and advance practice, policy, and research in underserved and vulnerable regions across the country. In February of this year, President Biden nominated Levine for the position of assistant secretary of health.

The Senate narrowly approved her nomination the following month. She is the first Transgender person to be confirmed by the Senate. Levine previously served as Pennsylvania’s health secretary for three and a half years, during which time she managed the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Some Republicans chastised Levine during her confirmation hearings for being in control when her department ordered COVID-19 patients to be readmitted to nursing homes, akin to the scandal that engulfed former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.

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