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Assistant Secretary for health and wellness Dr. Rachel Levine (Photo courtesy of U.S. Room of Health and Human Services)

Dr. Rachel Levine want to work in health because she want to aid people. Along the way, she became an icon.

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Levine, the assistant secretary for wellness in the department of Health and Human Services, made history in March when she came to be the first openly transgender official evidenced by the Senate. Yet she said her career hasn"t been about seeking attention for herself. It"s been about healing – together a pediatrician, teacher, researcher and Pennsylvania"s health and wellness secretary, fighting the opioid epidemic and COVID-19.

She"s not opposed to using her condition to assist spread she message. "I am really pleased to support for the LGBTQ ar in terms of health equity and also equality and also fairness. And also I feel that I have actually been maybe to execute that in Pennsylvania. And I"m may be to carry out that country now."

Although she has spent lot of June law interviews pertained to Pride Month, she renders clear it every comes earlier to health.

"There are many studies excellent to display that, unfortunately, LGBTQ individuals, and an especially transgender individuals, sometimes face difficulties in accessing our health treatment system," she said. LGBTQ civilization who feeling discriminated against often will not look for care.

In her new job, she wishes to deal with that problem and also more. At 63, she has had actually a life time to prepare.

"I decided in high school, after i took my first biology class, that i was interested" in gift a doctor, she said, and the Massachusetts aboriginal soon discovered work in a rap in Boston. "I had actually the exposure come researchers, but likewise surgeons and also surgical residents."

She studied at Harvard College and Tulane University institution of medication in new Orleans, whereby she was drawn to the arising field of adolescent medicine. She eventually became a professor that pediatrics and psychiatry in ~ the penn State university of Medicine and had several functions at pen State Hershey clinical Center.

After Democrat Tom Wolf became governor of Pennsylvania in 2015, she became the state"s medical professional general, climate secretary of health.

She is rapid to suggest out the does not make she a politician.

"I"ve never run because that office," she said. "I think the there space political considerations in public health. Yet I really take into consideration what I"ve been doing over the last six, seven years to it is in public service and public health."

By any name, she"s an excellent at it, said her girlfriend Michael Fraser, chief executive, management officer that the association of State and also Territorial wellness Officials. Levine was president the the association as soon as President Joe Biden nominated she to her new role.

"There"s lots of various ways to carry out that occupational of healing," Fraser said, "and i think that"s what"s yes, really driving her. Not the politics. No the agendas. No celebrity. Yet the work of healing."

Fraser, who lives in Harrisburg, had a front-row seat together Levine tackled very first the opioid crisis, then discovered herself leading Pennsylvania"s COVID-19 response.

Fans celebrated her with a Facebook web page using what Philadelphia magazine claimed were "words commonly reserved because that Jesus and maybe Oprah." Foes insulted her v what the Pennsylvania the supervisory board on LGBTQ Affairs referred to as "some the the many vile and toxic transphobia ours commission has actually seen in our commonwealth in recent years."

She handles the abuse well, Fraser said. "But I recognize it hurts. It would certainly hurt anybody."

In the challenge of all that, she has tendency to stay positive. Fraser said that"s not an act. It"s a means of giving ago to those who aided her when she to be transitioning more than a te ago.

"I think that i was fortunate," Levine said. "I obtained support from the world I operated with. I obtained support from mine family. And also I think that has had actually a far-reaching influence."

Overall, she said, "I"m a positive and also optimistic person. And I, friend know, I have learned come compartmentalize ... That an unfavorable feedback and also just save doing my job."

Not that she"s fear to speak up. In ~ a push conference critical July, she called out her attackers for promoting a soul of intolerance and also discrimination, informing them that while castle "may think lock are only expressing their displeasure with me, they space in fact hurting the countless LGBTQ Pennsylvanians who endure directly" from together harassment.

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Dr. Rachel Levine to be the keynote speaker for the 2021 AHA virtual Pride event. (American gendergeek.org Association)

That statement wasn"t for the sake of her very own feelings, she states now. "I moved back specifically because i felt the the statements gift made and also the news stories were possibly harming other LGBTQ individuals, and particularly LGBTQ youth."

Levine often defines her attitude toward an individual attacks through quoting a favourite movie character: Yoda, from the "Star Wars" films. She quotes him again when asked what lessons she"d like world to take it from she life and career.

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"Fear is the course to the dark side," she said. "Fear leader to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads come suffering. And so i think it is so necessary not come live her life in fear, and to it is in yourself and to assist people. And also that"s what I"ve tried to do."

Perhaps showing her politics savvy, she happy acknowledged likewise being a fan of the initial "Star Trek" (favorite character: Mr. Spock) yet declined to weigh in ~ above the divisive topic of i m sorry science-fiction franchise she preferred. "It"s 50-50," she said.

Then, she easily turned the focus ago to health, extending the interview to amplify an urgent speak to for blood donations. "We have actually a dire shortage that blood, and also we really need people to go out and also donate. I want to make sure I was able to include that."