Dr. Rachel Levine, the nation’s most senior transgender official, once again made history by becoming the first openly transgender four-star officer across any of the country’s eight uniformed services.
Currently serving as the assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and head of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps, Levine was sworn in as an admiral, the highest-ranking official of the USPHS, whose 6,000 uniformed officers are entrusted with protecting the nation’s public health. Levine’s appointment also made her the organization’s first female four-star officer.
This historic announcement builds on the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ History Month.
“This is a momentous occasion, and I am honored to take this role for the impact I can make and for the historic nature of what it symbolizes,” Levine said in a speech at her swearing-in ceremony. “I stand on the shoulders of those LGBTQ+ individuals who came before me, both those known and unknown. May this appointment today be the first of many more to come, as we create a diverse and more inclusive future.”
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. I promise to uphold that trust to the fullest extent of my abilities. https://t.co/ryfwRqbAoz
— ADM Rachel Levine (@HHS_ASH) October 19, 2021
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement that making Levine an admiral is a proud moment.
“She is a highly accomplished pediatrician who helps drive our agency’s agenda to boost health access and equity and to strengthen behavioral health,” he said. “She is a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America.”
A pediatrician who previously served as Pennsylvania’s health secretary, Levine has spearheaded numerous efforts to combat public health issues including the opioid epidemic, maternal mortality, and childhood immunization. She graduated from Harvard College and Tulane Medical School, and has writings on medical marijuana and pediatric medicine.
In heading the health corps, Levine will be in charge of deploying the country’s public health workers to respond to crises ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to natural disasters such as flooding. She says she is proud to follow in the footsteps of her father, who served in the Air Force during World War II, and other veteran family members.
“Just as they stepped up to defend our rights to freedom and liberty, I now follow in their storied tradition of service as I step up to defend the health of our nation,” she said.