A Historic Swearing in at the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
Dr. Rachel Levine became the United States’ first openly transgender four-star officer and first female four-star admiral of the corps.
History was made on Tuesday with the swearing in of the new admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, who became the country’s first openly transgender four-star officer across any of the eight uniformed services and first female four-star admiral of the corps.
The new admiral is Dr. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health at the Health and Human Services Department and head of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Officers of the corps work in agencies across the federal government to advance, safeguard and promote public health.
This is an “extraordinary honor and profound responsibility,” said Levine during the swearing in ceremony. “I stand before you in this uniform ready to be a beacon in these dark days of COVID-19 working to serve you and this great nation.” She added that “diversity makes us stronger” because of the different perspectives people bring to the table.
“This is a proud moment for us at HHS,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, in a statement. “Admiral Levine — a highly accomplished pediatrician who helps drive our agency’s agenda to boost health access and equity and to strengthen behavioral health — is a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America.”
Vivek Murthy, U.S. surgeon general and vice admiral of the corps, said during the swearing in ceremony, “We are extremely proud to have Dr. Levine join the 6,000 officers of the U.S. Public Health Service Mission Corps who serve on the front lines against disease and poor health conditions.”
The corps includes physicians, nurses, dentists, dietitians, veterinarians, therapists, engineers, pharmacists and others who work at 800 locations across the country as well as in some foreign assignments.
The CARES Act for coronavirus relief, enacted in March 2020, established a “Ready Reserve Corps” to support emergency response situations. The special reserve originated in the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010; however, “due to a technical error, the legislation failed to include the statutory authority for pay and benefits, and so [it] was never activated,” said the Military Officers Association of America.
Levine previously made history when she became the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the Senate for a presidential nomination. That was one of the Biden administration’s many historic firsts for diversity in personnel appointments and nominations.
NEXT STORY: How Government Is Failing Public Servants