Pandemic hero Dr Rachel Levine makes history once again as first trans four-star admiral

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Dr Rachel Levine is the nation’s first transgender four-star officer when she was sworn in as an admiral of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps on 19 October 2021. (Twitter/@HHS_ASH)

Trailblazing Biden appointee Dr Rachel Levine has become the first openly trans four-star officer across any of the nation’s eight uniformed services.

Levine, the US assistant secretary of health, was sworn in Tuesday (19 October) as an admiral in the US Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps.

Admiral is the highest-ranking official of the 6,000 person service entrusted with protecting the country’s public health, including administering COVID-19 vaccines and helping in national emergencies. Levine is also the USPHS Commissioned Corps’s first-ever female four-star admiral.

In a speech at her swearing-in ceremony, Levine said she’s honoured to “take this role for the impact that I can make and for the historic nature of what it symbolises”.

“I stand on the shoulders of those LGBTQ+ individuals who came before me, both those known and unknown,” she said. “May this appointment today be the first of many more to come as we create a diverse and more inclusive future.”

The USPHS Commissioned Corps is one of the nation’s eight uniformed services alongside the six military services – Air Force, Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Space Force – and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association Commissioned Officer Corps.

Xavier Becerra, the US health and human services secretary, said Levine’s historic appointment as the first openly transgender four-star officer is a “giant step forward towards quality as a nation”.

“Admiral Levine — a highly accomplished paediatrician who helps drive our agency’s agenda to boost health access and equity and to strengthen behavioural health — is a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America,” Becerra said.

Dr Rachel Levine made history in March when she became the first openly trans federal official approved by the Senate. The chamber confirmed Levine into her current role by a vote of 52-48 split primarily along party lines.

Levine is also a paediatrician and former physician general who led Pennsylvania through two crises, opioids and coronavirus. She also served as the secretary of the Pennsylvania department of health.

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