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Gov. Wolf, LGBTQ leaders congratulate Dr. Rachel Levine on nomination to assistant health secretary

If confirmed, Dr. Levine would have a national platform as assistant health secretary and become the highest ranking transgender official in United States government

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — History in the making: President-Elect Joe Biden has picked Pennsylvania's top health official to be the next assistant health secretary for his administration.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Dr. Rachel Levine would become the first openly transgender federal official.

You can read more about President-Elect Biden's pick and Dr. Levine's qualifications by following this link.

RELATED: Biden picks Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant health secretary

"We absolutely need to get vaccines into arms," said Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, during a news conference last year.

People have seen Dr. Levine's face time and time again as she has led the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Dr. Levine would have a national platform as assistant health secretary and become the highest ranking transgender official in United States government.

The Harvard College graduate is also a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine and president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

"LGBTQ Pennsylvanians are beaming with pride today because Dr. Levine is a historic nominee," said Adrian Shanker, Executive Director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. "I've been friends with Dr. Levine for a decade, and I've worked with her for many, many years."

Shanker says Dr. Levine will make more than history.

"She will be making a difference, because she is uniquely qualified, immensely qualified," he added. 

First joining Governor Wolf's Administration in 2015, Dr. Levine has been confirmed three times by the republican-controlled state senate as secretary of health and physician general. 

Over the years, she helped establish the state's medical marijuana program, focused on opioid use disorder, and promoted the need for adequate medical care and access for the LGBTQ community.

In a statement, Governor Wolf thanked and congratulated Dr. Levine: 

"Dr. Levine is a highly skilled and valued member of my administration and she will be greatly missed. She has been a wise and dedicated partner during this pandemic and throughout her career with the commonwealth. I couldn’t be prouder of the tireless work she’s done to serve Pennsylvanians and protect the public health," stated Gov. Wolf. "Over the past year, her steady hand and calm approach were critical to managing Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Gov. Wolf says Dr. Levine's work for the Commonwealth has been transformational. He says people owe Dr. Levine a debt of gratitude for her leadership and protecting every person's health amid unprecedented times. Gov. Wolf adds Dr. Levine is both competent and compassionate, and she never lets anger or fear of others sway her from her goals.

Shanker notes how Dr. Levine handled criticism of being a transgender woman in state government.

"I have no room in my heart for hatred, and frankly, I do not have time for intolerance," Dr. Levine previously said to FOX43.

"Pennsylvanians were hearing the transphobia loud and clear, and the bullying needed to stop. This is what a dedicated public servant does. They stand up for marginalized communities, and they get back to doing their job," said Shanker.

Ruben Gonzales, Executive Director of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said the following about the upcoming confirmation process:

“Dr. Levine is one of the foremost experts on responding to this pandemic and our community is united in standing with her for the confirmation fight ahead. We know transphobic members of the U.S. Senate will try to block her nomination because of her gender identity – ignoring her qualifications to try and score political points with extremists in their political base. But our Presidential Appointments Initiative coalition of more than 30 LGBTQ and allied organizations is ready to fight like hell to defend Dr. Levine and ensure she is judged on her qualifications and nothing else. The majority of Americans want whoever is best prepared to fight this pandemic and that person is Dr. Levine.”

Ruben Gonzales, Executive Director of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said the following about the upcoming confirmation process:

“Dr. Levine is one of the foremost experts on responding to this pandemic and our community is united in standing with her for the confirmation fight ahead. We know transphobic members of the U.S. Senate will try to block her nomination because of her gender identity – ignoring her qualifications to try and score political points with extremists in their political base. But our Presidential Appointments Initiative coalition of more than 30 LGBTQ and allied organizations is ready to fight like hell to defend Dr. Levine and ensure she is judged on her qualifications and nothing else. The majority of Americans want whoever is best prepared to fight this pandemic and that person is Dr. Levine.”

President-Elect Biden nominated Dr. Levine for U.S. Asst. Secretary of Health; Coalition of more than 30 LGBTQ and allied organizations united in defending her confirmation Washington, DC - President-elect Joe Biden nominated Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine to be the U.S.

Victory Institute’s Presidential Appointments Initiative, a coalition of 32 LGBTQ and allied organizations, will put forward hundreds of exemplary LGBTQ candidates for positions throughout the next administration and advocate for their consideration. According to a release issued by the institute, it aims to help the Biden transition team in creating the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration in U.S. history.

For now, it's unclear who will take Dr. Levine's place in the interim or permanently as officials would not comment.

Dr. Levine declined an interview but released a statement on the nomination:

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Dr. Levine holds degrees from Harvard College and Tulane University School of Medicine. She completed her training in pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York.

Biden's selection of Dr. Levine comes just days after choosing David A. Kessler, M.D., FAAP, as chief science officer of COVID response. 

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