Dr. Rachel Levine Blazes a Trail for Transgender Government Officials with Confirmation as Pennsylvania Secretary of Health

By Shane Stahl • March 29, 2018 • 11:04 am

On March 20, the Pennsylvania State Senate approved four acting officials to officially join the cabinet of Governor Tom Wolf; included among them was Dr. Rachel Levine, confirmed as Pennsylvania Secretary of Health and Physician General. Dr. Levine’s appointment is notable as it makes her one of only a handful of openly transgender people across the country to hold public office and the highest ranking transgender government official in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is one of 32 states that lack comprehensive statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in employment, housing, and public accommodations. In fact, LGBTQ people have no statewide protections in Pennsylvania at all.

First joining Wolf’s cabinet as an acting secretary after his 2014 election victory, one of Dr. Levine’s first actions was to address the state’s opioid crisis. In 2015, she signed a statewide order that allows pharmacies to dispense the life-saving overdose drug naloxone to anyone that asks for it. She has also done extensive work and outreach in the state’s LGBTQ community, often traveling and lecturing medical professionals on how to make healthcare fair and equitable, in addition to collaborating with the governor’s office to set LGBTQ-inclusive programs and processes.

Before serving in government, Dr. Levine graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine. She completed her training in Pediatrics at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City and then did a Fellowship in Adolescent Medicine at Mt. Sinai. She then practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine in New York City and was on the faculty of the Mt Sinai School of Medicine. She came to Pennsylvania in 1993 as the Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the Polyclinic Medical Center, then joined the staff at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center in 1996 as the Director of Pediatric Ambulatory Services and Adolescent Medicine. While there, she founded the Penn State Hershey Eating Disorders Program, and worked with the college’s Office of Diversity to establish an LGBTQ faculty and staff affinity group.

In addition to her role as Secretary, Dr. Levine teaches at the Penn State College of Medicine on topics in adolescent medicine, eating disorders and transgender medicine. In addition, she has lectured nationally and internationally and has published articles and chapters on these topics.

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