On Tuesday, Rachel Levine became the first ever Four Star transgender officer in the US, when she was sworn in as an admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHSCC). Levine now leads 6,000 uniformed officers entrusted with protecting the nation’s public health.

Speaking after being sworn in, Levine called the opportunity to serve as an “extraordinary honor and a profound responsibility,” adding, “I am deeply honored and grateful to join the ranks of men and women across this great nation who have committed to defend the United States against small and large threats, known and unknown. I promise to uphold that trust to the fullest extent of my abilities.”

Openly addressing her gender, Levine further said, “I am honored to serve as the first female four-star officer of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the first openly transgender four-star officer to serve across any of the eight uniformed services. This is a momentous occasion and I’m honored to take this role for the impact that I can make and for the historic nature of what it symbolizes.” Thanking those who came before her, Levine said, “I stand on the shoulders of those LGBTQ+ individuals who came before me, both those known and unknown,” adding, “May this appointment today be first of many more to come as we create a more diverse and more inclusive future.”

After graduating from Harvard College and Tulane University School of Medicine, ADM Levine completed her training in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. As a physician, she focused on the intersection between mental and physical health, treating children, adolescents, and young adults. ADM Levine was a Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. Her previous posts included: Vice-Chair for Clinical Affairs for the Department of Pediatrics, and Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

In 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf nominated ADM Levine to be Pennsylvania’s Physician General and she was subsequently unanimously confirmed by Pennsylvania’s state Senate. In March of 2018, ADM Levine was named Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health. During her time in state government, ADM Levine worked to address Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis, focus attention on maternal health and improve immunization rates among children. Her decision to issue a standing order for the anti-overdose drug, Naloxone, saved thousands of lives by allowing law enforcement to carry the drug and Pennsylvanians to purchase it without a prescription from their doctor.

She serves as the 17th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), after being nominated by President Joe Biden and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2021. 

*Feature image courtesy official Twitter account of HHS.