Coronavirus

Meet Rachel Levine, the Health Secretary Leading the Coronavirus Battle in Pennsylvania

Don’t hold the fact that she’s a Patriots fan against her.


rachel levine, Secretary of Health for Pennsylvania, is the state's top official battling the coronavirus

Rachel Levine is the secretary of health for Pennsylvania. She is leading the state’s charge in the fight against the coronavirus. (Official state photo)

Every time Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine appears on television with Governor Tom Wolf to talk about coronavirus in the state, Philly Mag gets a surge of internet traffic to articles we published more than five years ago. Those articles focused on the fact that Levine is the highest-ranking transgender official in Pennsylvania and one of a small number of transgender people serving in elected or appointed offices nationwide.

But that was before coronavirus struck. Long before. So we thought we’d take a minute to tell you more about Levine, where she came from, and what she’s been doing since she took office.

What exactly does Rachel Levine do?

As Pennsylvania Health Secretary, Levine oversees the 1,300-employee Pennsylvania Department of Health and its battle against the coronavirus in Pennsylvania. In that role, she reports directly to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. She is also a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine.

Where did Rachel Levine go to school?

After graduating from Harvard, Levine attended med school at Tulane. She finished her training at Mt. Sinai in New York City. Not too shabby!

How do you pronounce her last name?

It’s “le-VEEN” not “le-VINE”.

What was Rachel Levine doing before the coronavirus hit?

Though a person in her position deals with a litany of issues, Levine’s main target before the coronavirus was the opioid crisis. And no doubt the opioid crisis will continue long after coronavirus becomes a thing we remember not so fondly. Levine was also involved in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program from the beginning.

Where can I learn more about what Rachel Levine has to say about the coronavirus?

Levine holds daily Pennsylvania coronavirus briefings, usually at 2 p.m. You can stream all of Levine’s briefings here.

Has Rachel Levine published any papers I should read?

If academic papers are your thing, Levine has some for you. She has written about addiction, eating disorders, and gender dysphoria, among other topics.

Has being a person who is transgender held her back at all?

Levine previously told the Washington Post that being a person who is transgender has not been an issue, “with very few exceptions.” Levine has been open about her personal life. She has an old photo hanging in her office showing her when she was a married man named Richard, standing with her family. Levine is now divorced, and her children are grown.

Is it true that there is a Rachel Levine fan club?

Yep. It’s a Facebook group called “Dr. Rachel Levine – We Love You” and you can join it here.

So if she works in Harrisburg, does that make her a Steelers fan or an Eagles fan?

Neither. Sadly, Levine is a New England Patriots fan. Please don’t hold that against her.