Politics

Dr. Rachel Levine becomes first transgender four-star officer across all uniformed service branches

Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps
Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned CorpsPhoto: Provided

Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Rachel Levine is making history again.

Levine is being sworn in as a four-star admiral, making her the first transgender four-star officer in all eight of the uniformed services. Admiral Levine will also be the first female four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

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Levine’s historic nomination to be Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was quickly followed with the distinction of being the first transgender federal official to be confirmed. The vote to confirm her nomination was bipartisan.

There are only 44 other four-star active-duty officers in all of the uniformed services.

In an interview with LGBTQ Nation, Levine stressed that her appointment “symbolizes progress.”

“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 eight uniformed services. 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.”

“We have a unique opportunity with President Biden and Vice President Harris for equity, fairness, and inclusiveness for all aspects of life but especially for the LGBTQ community,” she said. “I have always been proud to advocate for the LGBTQ community and serve as a role model that everything is possible and there are no limitations. I hope this really inspires LGBTQ youth.”

“What’s critically important is the strong support of the administration for equity and diversity for LGBTQ individuals. We have a president who sees us and advocates on our behalf.”

“Admiral Levine’s historic appointment as the first openly transgender four-star officer is a giant step forward towards equality as a nation,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra added. “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.”

Levine will lead the corps, which has over 6,000 Public Health Services officers, but stressed that her leadership style is collaborative. She’s a “facilitator” at heart, she said. But as the person in charge, she’s not afraid to make the tough decisions either.

As Physician General of the state of Pennsylvania, she led the state’s response to the pandemic, at times facing heavy criticism – and straight-up transphobia – from conservatives in her state.

Officers in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps serve in agencies across the government as physicians, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, scientists, engineers, and other professionals. The U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, is the operational head of the corps.

“I’m so grateful to work alongside a kind, principled leader like Admiral Levine, and it is my honor to celebrate her historic appointment as the first female four-star officer to serve in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps and as the first openly transgender four-star officer to serve in any of the uniformed services,” Murthy said.

“Her appointment represents an important step towards a more inclusive future, and her service will undoubtedly advance the USPHS Commissioned Corps’ mission to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of our nation.”

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