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Dr. Rachel Levine joined the Biden administration as the assistant health secretary on Jan. 19. (Governor Tom Wolf | CC By 2.0)

President Joe Biden selected Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, to serve as the assistant secretary for health at the United States Department of Health and Human Services. If appointed, she would be the first openly transgender person to serve as a federal official. 

Levine is currently the face of Pennsylvania's COVID-19 response, serving as the top health official in the commonwealth. She would become the highest-ranking openly transgender official to serve in the federal government.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement on Tuesday. 

Levine was appointed as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health in 2017 by Gov. Tom Wolf, after serving as the commonwealth’s physician general for two years. She is currently responsible for coordinating with state and federal officials to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania and leading daily press briefings.

"I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve Pennsylvanians, and all Americans, as part of the Biden Administration if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed to this position,” she wrote in a statement.

If confirmed by the Senate, Levine will join the Biden administration at a defining moment, with daily COVID-19 cases and deaths reaching record levels as the pandemic rages on. 

Prior to the pandemic, Levine also led efforts to mitigate the opioid crisis in the commonwealth. She is credited with making the overdose reversal drug naloxone more readily available throughout Pennsylvania. 

Levine has also faced intense backlash across the state because of her identity as an openly transgender elected official. Levine expressed concern that these comments could be detrimental to vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth in the state. 

"I am proud of the work we have done as an administration to address health equity, and the work I have done personally to raise awareness about LGBTQ equity issues," Levine wrote. "And I am extremely proud of the work we have done during the last year to save lives in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic."