Admiral Rachel Levine became America’s first transgender four-star admiral after she was sworn yesterday in to lead the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps. Her  appointment as the leader of the USPHS makes her the nation’s highest-ranking transgender official, the Daily Mail is reporting.

President Joe Biden’s appointee will also maintain her position as Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as she serve as the head of the USPHS. In her new position, Levine will lead the nearly 6,000-person force of public health professionals who handle public health crises. Those crises include administering COVID vaccines  and responding to national emergencies.

The USPHS appointment was made even though Levine has never served as a sailor. But those named as the Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services can be ranked as an admiral if they also serve as a uniformed officer of the USPHS Commissioned Corps.

Levine was sworn in by Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy of the U.S. Surgeon General’s office. After taking the oath, she expressed her gratitude for being selected to the USPHS position.

The newly appointed admiral tweeted: “I am deeply honored & grateful to join the ranks of men & women across this great nation who have committed to defend the United States against small & large threats, known and unknown. I promise to uphold that trust to the fullest extent of my abilities.

Levine also noted that she’s following in the footsteps of her father and two uncles in serving the nation. She added that she’s working to protect the health of our nation “as we face the biggest public health crisis our country and the world has faced in modern times.”

The Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services went on to say that she embraces the historic nature of what her new appointment to the USPHS position symbolizes. She also shared her hopes that “this appointment be the first of many more to come as we create a diverse and inclusive future” where no one is left behind.

“The health of our nation is [paramount. Everyone should be treated with love, respect, and compassion,” Levine concluded.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Xavier Becerra, also released a statement on Levin’s swearing in. “Admiral Levine’s historic appointment as the first openly transgender four-star officer is a giant step forward toward equality as a nation,” he noted.

President Biden nominated Levine to the high-ranking position in January. Before her appointment as Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, she served the Pennsylvania Department of Health secretary. In that position, she led Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak as the state’s top health official.

Levine, who was born Richard Levine in Massachusetts in 1957, has talked openly about her transition. She has recalling that even as a young child, “I knew is I wanted to be a girl, or I was a girl, or female.”

The four-star admiral began coming out to her colleagues, students, patients, friends and family as transgender about 20 years ago. She completed her transition in 2013 after undergoing sex reassignment surgery and hormonal treatment, according to PennLive.

Levine was married to Martha Peaslee, and they had two children together, Danya and David, before she began transitioning. The Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reportedly remained close to her ex-wife since they divorced at the time of her transition, as well as their two children.

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