President Joe Biden’s administration named Rachel Levine, a top U.S. health official and transgender woman, the “first-ever female four-star admiral” of the U.S. Public Health Services (USPHS) Commissioned Corps on Monday.
Levine, 63, served as the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health before being nominated to be assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services in the Biden administration. Levine, who is biologically male, is the first openly transgender official confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) publicly announced today the nation’s first openly transgender four-star officer across any of the eight uniformed services of the United States,” the HHS said in a Tuesday press release. “Admiral Rachel Levine, who serves as the HHS Assistant Secretary for Health and head of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps, was ceremonially sworn in as a four-star admiral.”
“Admiral Levine now serves as the highest ranking official in the USPHS Commissioned Corps and its first-ever female four-star admiral. Admiral Levine will lead 6,000 Public Health Service officers who are dedicated to serving our nation’s most underserved and vulnerable populations,” the HHS continued. “Today’s historic announcement builds on the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ History Month and is a major step forward as we work to create a more inclusive society.”
Levine celebrated the latest appointment as a step toward a “more inclusive future.”
“I am humbled to serve as the first female four-star officer of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and first openly transgender four-star officer across any of the 8 uniformed services,” Levine said in a statement. “This is a momentous occasion and I am pleased to take this role for the impact I can make, and for the historic nature of what it symbolizes. May this appointment be the first of many like it as we create a more inclusive future.”
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement: “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. 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.”
The Senate confirmed Levine to serve in the Biden administration in March in a 52-48 vote largely along partisan lines. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) were the lone senators to cross party lines and vote for Levine.
While serving as Pennsylvania’s top health official, Levine’s tenure was marred by scandals and allegations of incompetence. As The Daily Wire reported:
Levine, who was formerly Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, faced accusations of incompetence regarding Pennsylvania’s handling of COVID-19.
“Along with the testing challenges from last spring, your state failed to adequately protect nursing home residents from the virus, and is making unacceptable mistakes in the vaccine distribution process,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said at Levine’s confirmation hearing.
In August, Levine outraged even Democratic state lawmakers when Pittsburgh NBC affiliate WPXI uncovered legal documents reportedly proving that Levine had come to a confidential settlement agreement with a car show in Harrisburg that allowed them to skirt the lockdown. Citing it as an “ongoing legal issue,” Levine refused repeated opportunities to explain why tens of thousands were allowed to shuffle through the car show’s four-day event during a time when outdoor gatherings were limited to 250 people or fewer.