Dr. Rachel Levine Becomes the First Transgender 4-Star Officer in US History

In a history-making show of diversity and inclusion, Dr. Rachel Levine has become the first openly transgender four-star officer to earn a position in one of the nation’s eight uniformed services. As we reported back in March 2021, Dr. Levine was also the first openly trans person to be confirmed by the Senate for federal office.

NPR’s Jonathan Franklin reported that “during a ceremony Tuesday, Oct. 19, Levine was sworn in as an admiral — the highest-ranking official of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Levine’s appointment to the USPHS Commissioned Corps also made her the organization’s first female four-star admiral.”

Dr. Levine currently serves as the nation’s 17th assistant secretary of health. In that role, she is focused on improving public health and assisting in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In her new appointment as admiral, she will also head a group of more than 6,000 officers who respond to public health crises and natural disasters.

In an interview with NPR, Dr. Levine told Franklin that becoming a four-star officer “is very meaningful to me. I am so impressed by the dedication, the commitment and the expertise of the officers and the United States Public Health Service Commission Corps. And it is truly an honor to lead them and to serve with them.”

Dr. Levine also thanked the Biden administration for its ongoing commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity, which truly helped make her achievement possible. 

“I think this is symbolic of that commitment and for transgender youth and other transgender individuals, that there are no glass ceilings and no limitation to what we can achieve,” she said.

During a speech following her appointment, Dr. Levine added that “this is a momentous occasion, and I am honored to take this role for the impact I can make and for the historic nature of what it symbolizes.”

Franklin reported that “before becoming a federal official, Levine served as Pennsylvania’s health secretary, highlighting several public health issues across the commonwealth: the opioid epidemic, maternal health and immunization rates among children.”

In a statement, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra called Dr. Levine’s appointment a “giant step” forward in LGBTQ equality in the U.S.

“This is a proud moment for us at HHS,” Becerra said. “Admiral Levine is a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America.”


Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.



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