Rachel Levine

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Rachel Levine
Official portrait, 2021
17th Assistant Secretary for Health
Assumed office
March 26, 2021
PresidentJoe Biden
SecretaryXavier Becerra
Preceded byBrett Giroir
Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health
In office
July 2017 – January 23, 2021
GovernorTom Wolf
Preceded byKaren Murphy
Succeeded byAlison Beam (acting)
Personal details
Born (1957-10-28) October 28, 1957 (age 66)
Wakefield, Massachusetts, U.S.
Martha Peaslee
(m. 1988; div. 2013)
EducationHarvard University (BS)
Tulane University (MD)
Uniformed service
Service/branchPublic Health Service Commissioned Corps
Years of service2021–present

Rachel Leland Levine (/ləˈvn/; born October 28, 1957)[1] is an American pediatrician who has served as the United States assistant secretary for health since March 26, 2021.[2] She is also an admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Levine is a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine, and previously served as the Pennsylvania physician general from 2015 to 2017 and as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health from 2017 to 2021.[3] Levine is one of only a few openly transgender government officials in the United States,[4] and is the first to hold an office that requires Senate confirmation.[5][6] On October 19, 2021, Levine became the first openly transgender four-star officer in the nation's eight uniformed services.[7]

Levine was named as one of USA Today's women of the year in 2022, which recognizes women who have made a significant impact on society.[8]

Early life and education

Born on October 28, 1957, Levine is originally from Wakefield, Massachusetts.[1][9] Her parents, Melvin and Lillian Levine, were both lawyers.[10] Her sister, Bonnie Levine, is four years older.[10] Levine is Jewish and grew up attending Hebrew school.[11] Levine earned a high school diploma from Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Massachusetts.[12]

Levine graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine, completing a residency in pediatrics and a postdoctoral fellowship in adolescent medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, New York.[13]


After completing her training in pediatrics and psychiatry at New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital, Levine moved from Manhattan to central Pennsylvania in 1993 where she joined the faculty of the Penn State College of Medicine and the staff at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.[14] During her tenure, she created Penn State Hershey Medical Center's Division of Adolescent Medicine and the Penn State Hershey Eating Disorders Program. She was in charge of the latter when she was nominated for the position of Pennsylvania physician general in 2015.[14]

Pennsylvania Department of Health

In 2015, Levine was nominated by Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf to serve as Pennsylvania's physician general. In one of her most lauded actions as physician general, Levine signed an order allowing law enforcement officers to carry naloxone.[15]

In July 2017, Governor Wolf appointed Levine as Secretary of Health, and she was unanimously confirmed by the Pennsylvania State Senate.

COVID-19 response

Levine briefing COVID-19 measures with Gov. Tom Wolf at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in June 2020

During 2020 and until January 23, 2021, Levine led the public health response on COVID-19 in Pennsylvania as the state secretary of health. She worked closely on a daily basis with the FEMA director and led a daily press briefing. Along with Gov. Tom Wolf, Levine faced criticism from a few Republican leaders over her handling of the pandemic, particularly with regard to nursing home patients.[16]

On March 18, 2020, Levine directed Pennsylvania nursing homes to admit new patients, including stable patients recovering from the COVID-19 virus who were released from the hospital.[17] Despite warnings from nursing home trade groups that such policies could unnecessarily cost more lives, there is no evidence that Levine placed COVID-positive patients in nursing home facilities or that her decision resulted in excess death among the elderly.[16][medical citation needed] Levine was also criticized for mishandling COVID data reporting[18] and insufficiently addressing the long-standing oversight problems in Pennsylvania nursing homes that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.[19] Levine faced further scrutiny in May 2020, when she moved her own mother out of a nursing home. In defending the move, Levine said, "My mother requested, and my sister and I, as her children, complied", describing her mother as "more than competent to make her own decisions."[20] These issues were momentarily highlighted by Republican lawmakers after President Biden nominated Levine for Assistant Secretary for Health. However, Levine's leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic has been widely praised as calm and steadfast by many Pennsylvanians and local media outlets.[21]

Biden administration

Levine with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra after being sworn in as assistant secretary for health, March 27, 2021

On February 13, 2021, President Joe Biden formally nominated Levine to serve as Assistant Secretary for Health.[22] Her confirmation hearing with the Senate HELP Committee took place on February 25. On March 17, the committee voted 13–9 to advance her nomination for a full Senate vote.[23] On March 24, the Senate voted 52–48, with all Democrats and two Republicans — Susan Collins from Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska — joining all members of the Senate Democratic Caucus to confirm her nomination.[24] Levine is the first openly transgender person to hold an office that requires Senate confirmation.[25]

On October 19, 2021, Levine was commissioned as a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, becoming the first openly transgender four-star officer in any of the United States uniformed services as well as the first female four-star admiral in the Commissioned Corps.[26]

LGBTQ health disparities

Shortly after her confirmation, Levine told NBC News that LGBTQ youth are topmost in her mind when it comes to addressing health disparities in the United States.[27] She cited bullying, suicide, discriminatory policies, and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic as pressing issues among LGBTQ youth. Levine has also expressed concerns about vaccine hesitancy among LGBTQ youth who are more likely to experience medical distrust and less likely to seek medical care.[28]

During an April 2022 speech at Texas Christian University, Levine criticized "disturbing - and frankly discriminatory - laws and actions" that many states have implemented that affect the lives of LGBTQ youth.[29] In an interview with NPR, she cited a range of policies, including Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill and Texas' push to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children.[30] Arguing that such policies are based on politics rather than public health, Levine encouraged people to contact the Office for Civil Rights when they feel discriminated against and vowed to provide support to those who contact her office.[29]

Personal life

Levine and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre hold a pride flag in 2022

Levine has two children.[31] She transitioned from male to female in 2011.[32] Levine married Martha Peaslee Levine in 1988[33][31] during Levine's last year of medical school[10][4] and divorced in 2013.[34][4] She has served as a board member of Equality Pennsylvania, an LGBT rights organization.[4]


Levine was named as one of USA Today's Women of the Year in 2022.[8]

Awards and decorations

Public Health Service Meritorious Service Medal Public Health Service Presidential Unit Citation
Public Health Service COVID-19 Pandemic Campaign Medal Public Health Service Regular Corps Ribbon Commissioned Corps Training Ribbon
Assistant Secretary for Health Badge Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services Badge



  • Fassbender, Laura; Zander, Gwendolyn B.; Levine, Rachel L. (July 2019). "Beyond rescue, treatment, and prevention: understanding the broader impact of the opioid epidemic at the state level". The American Journal of Managed Care. 25 (13 Suppl): S239–S240. PMID 31361432.
  • Ashburn, Michael A.; Levine, Rachel L. (October 1, 2017). "Pennsylvania State Core Competencies for Education on Opioids and Addiction". Pain Medicine. 18 (10): 1890–1894. doi:10.1093/pm/pnw348. PMID 28339890. S2CID 205292295.
  • Mahr, Fauzia; Farahmand, Pantea; Bixler, Edward O.; Domen, Ronald E; Moser, Eileen M.; Nadeem, Tania; Levine, Rachel L.; Halmi, Katherine A. (May 2015). "A national survey of eating disorder training: National Survey of Eating Disorder Training". International Journal of Eating Disorders. 48 (4): 443–445. doi:10.1002/eat.22335. PMID 25047025.
  • McFillin, R. K.; Cahn, S. C.; Burks, V. S.; Levine, M. P.; Loney, S. L.; Levine, R. L. (2012). "Social Information-Processing and Coping in Adolescent Females Diagnosed With an Eating Disorder: Toward a Greater Understanding of Control". Eating Disorders. 20 (1): 42–59. doi:10.1080/10640266.2012.635565. PMID 22188059. S2CID 205730298. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  • Levine, M. M. P.; Levine, R. L. (2010). "Psychiatric Medication". In Maine, M.; McGilley, B. H.; Bunnell, D. W. (eds.). Treatment of Eating Disorders; Bridging the Research – Practice Gap. Academic Press. pp. 111–126. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-375668-8.10007-5. ISBN 978-0-12-375668-8.
  • Levine, M. P.; Gershenson, B.; Falkinburg, K.; Levine, R. (April 30 – May 2, 2009). Eating disorders in anabaptist patients: Offering insights into the etiology of eating disorders (PDF). International Conference on Eating Disorders 2009. Cancun, Mexico: Academy for Eating Disorders. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  • Levine, M. P.; Levine, R. L. (March 4, 2008). "The Medical Minute: Eating disorder awareness". Penn State News. Hershey, PA. Archived from the original on July 11, 2021. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  • Peters, T. E.; Parvin, M.; Petersen, C.; Faircloth, V. C.; Levine, R. L. (2007). "A case report of Wernicke's encephalopathy in a pediatric patient with anorexia nervosa – restricting type". Journal of Adolescent Health. 40 (4): 376–383. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2006.11.140. PMID 17367738. Retrieved May 22, 2021.[permanent dead link]
  • Levine, R. L. (2002). "Endocrine aspects of eating disorders in adolescents". Adolescent Medicine. 13 (1): 129–144. PMID 11841960. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  • Ostrov, B. E.; Levine, R. L. (1998). "16. Interactions of puberty with rheumatic diseases, contraception and gynaecological issues". In Isenberg, D. K.; Miller, J. J. III (eds.). Adolescent Rheumatology. Taylor & Francis. pp. 301–324. ISBN 978-1-853-17553-4.
  • Henderson, C. J.; Ostrov, B. E.; Levine, R. L.; Lovell, D. J. (1998). "17. Nutrition and the adolescent with rheumatic disease". In Isenberg, D. K.; Miller, J. J. III (eds.). Adolescent Rheumatology. Taylor & Francis. pp. 325–340. ISBN 978-1-853-17553-4.

See also


  1. ^ a b "LGBT History Month – October 22: Rachel Levine". Q-Notes. October 22, 2018. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  2. ^ Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH) (March 26, 2021). "Rachel L. Levine, M.D." HHS.gov. Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  3. ^ "Gov. Wolf to Nominate Alison Beam as Secretary of Health, Names Dr. Wendy Braund as Interim Acting Physician General". Governor's Office. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. January 22, 2021. Archived from the original on January 24, 2021. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d Zezima, Katie (June 1, 2016). "Meet Rachel Levine, one of the very few transgender public officials in America". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 29, 2020. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
  5. ^ Sullivan, Eileen (January 19, 2021). "Biden's pick for Health and Human Services role would be first transgender federal official confirmed by the Senate". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  6. ^ Weissert, Will (January 19, 2021). "Biden picks transgender woman as assistant health secretary". AP News. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  7. ^ Diamond, Dan (October 19, 2021). "Rachel Levine, openly transgender health official, to be sworn in as four-star admiral in Public Health Service". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Hackney, Suzette (March 13, 2022). "'Be true to yourself': A message from the nation's highest-ranking openly transgender official". USA Today. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  9. ^ Goodin-Smith, Oona (January 19, 2021). "What to know about Rachel Levine, the history-making Pa. health official tapped for Biden administration". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c Loveland, Barry (February 6, 2017). "LGBT Oral History: Rachel Levine" (PDF). LGBT Center of Central PA History Project Dickinson College Archives & Special Collections. Carlisle, PA, USA. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 16, 2021. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  11. ^ "Jewish woman welcomed as transgender, state's new physician general". Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. June 24, 2015. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  12. ^ "Dr. Rachel Levine '75 Offers Timely Message for Students". Belmont Hill School. October 24, 2016. Archived from the original on January 26, 2021. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  13. ^ Choi-Schagrin, Winston (March 20, 2020). "A 2018 Q&A with Dr. Rachel Levine, now leading state's coronavirus response [from The Caucus archives]". LancasterOnline. Retrieved March 29, 2020.
  14. ^ a b Health (ASH), Assistant Secretary for (March 26, 2021). "Admiral Rachel L. Levine, MD". HHS.gov. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  15. ^ Zezima, Katie (June 1, 2016). "Meet Rachel Levine, one of the very few transgender public officials in America". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  16. ^ a b Marnin, Julia (January 19, 2021). "Fact Check: Did Biden's health pick put COVID-19 patients into nursing homes?". Newsweek. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  17. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Public Health (March 18, 2020). "Interim Guidance for Nursing Facilities During COVID-19" (PDF). Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  18. ^ "Levine pressed for answers on Pa.'s missing nursing home data as confirmation advances". Spotlight PA. March 18, 2021. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  19. ^ "The coronavirus exploited failure of Pa. health officials to improve long-standing problems with nursing home oversight". Spotlight PA. June 13, 2020. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  20. ^ Fung, Katherine (May 13, 2020). "Pennsylvania health secretary moved mother out of nursing home as coronavirus death toll increased in state". Newsweek. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  21. ^ "Rachel Levine is the calm in the eye of the COVID-19 storm". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  22. ^ House, The White (February 13, 2021). "Nominations Sent to the Senate". The White House. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  23. ^ "PN121 - Nomination of Rachel Leland Levine for Department of Health and Human Services, 117th Congress (2021-2022)". www.congress.gov. March 24, 2021. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  24. ^ "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 117th Congress - 1st Session". www.senate.gov. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  25. ^ "Rachel Levine, historic transgender nominee, confirmed as assistant health secretary". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  26. ^ Health (OASH), Office of the Assistant Secretary for (October 19, 2021). "Statements by Officials of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Commemorating the First Openly Transgender Four-Star Officer and First Female Four-Star Admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps on October 19, 2021". HHS.gov. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  27. ^ "Transgender federal official Rachel Levine tells LGBTQ youths: 'I have your back'". NBC News. June 2021. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  28. ^ Teixeira da Silva, Daniel; Biello, Katie; Lin, Willey Y.; Valente, Pablo K.; Mayer, Kenneth H.; Hightow-Weidman, Lisa; Bauermeister, José A. (March 2021). "COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance among an Online Sample of Sexual and Gender Minority Men and Transgender Women". Vaccines. 9 (3): 204. doi:10.3390/vaccines9030204. ISSN 2076-393X. PMC 7999863. PMID 33804530.
  29. ^ a b "Rachel Levine calls state anti-LGBTQ bills disturbing and dangerous to trans youth". NPR.org. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  30. ^ "A judge blocks Texas from investigating families of trans youth". NPR. Associated Press. June 10, 2022. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  31. ^ a b "Inside Tulane Med". tmaaarchive.tulane.edu. Archived from the original on August 22, 2021. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  32. ^ Srikanth, Anagha (January 19, 2021). "Rachel Levine could be the first transgender official confirmed by Congress. Who is she?". The Hill. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  33. ^ "resume www.writerdoc.com". December 29, 2008. Archived from the original on December 29, 2008. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  34. ^ Levine, Martha Peaslee (November 5, 2013). "How Do You Measure Your Life?". Psychology Today.
  35. ^ Dr. Rachel Levine [@HHS_ASH] (October 19, 2021). "Swearing-in of Dr. Rachel Levine to the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, officially becoming the first openly transgender four-star officer in the uniformed services and first female four-star admiral of @USPHS" (Tweet) – via Twitter.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by Secretary of the
Pennsylvania Department of Health

Succeeded by
Alison Beam
Government offices
Preceded by Assistant Secretary for Health