A top health appointee of President Joe Biden is slated to become the first transgender four-star admiral, the administration said Tuesday.
Rachel Levine, who was born male but identifies as a woman, will be sworn in Tuesday as an admiral of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, becoming the organization’s first person who identifies as female to achieve that rank.
“I’m doing this because of my dedication to service … with the utmost respect and honor for the uniform that I will be wearing,” Levine told the Washington Post, adding that her new position is “not just symbolic.”
Levine said she would begin wearing the blue uniform of her ranking immediately. She now oversees a 6,000-person force responding to health crises on behalf of the federal government, with duties including administering COVID-19 vaccines and offering aid after major disasters.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra also commended Levine’s new ranking, saying, “Adm. Levine’s historic appointment as the first openly transgender four-star officer is a giant step forward toward equality as a nation.”
Levine made history in March when she became an assistant secretary for the Health and Human Services Department, becoming the highest-ranking transgender official in the U.S.
Following a 52-48 confirmation vote in the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer touted Levine’s pick by the Biden administration as a representation of “another important milestone for the American LGBTQ community.”
While most Republicans voted against her confirmation, her appointment became controversial when she began to face public scrutiny over her handling of the coronavirus pandemic in nursing homes during her tenure as physician general of Pennsylvania. Under Levine’s oversight, a state policy requiring nursing homes to accept virus-infected patients led to numerous deaths, her detractors argued.
Levine testified in June 2020 that although the state prioritized hospitals for shipments of personal protective equipment in the early days of the pandemic, eventually officials’ attention turned toward resident care facilities.
The Washington Examiner contacted HHS but did not immediately receive a response.
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Original Author: Kaelan Deese