Senate confirms Murthy, Levine as Surgeon General and Assistant HHS Secretary

Dr. Vivek Murthy will return to the job he held during the Obama administration, while Dr. Rachel Levine makes history as the first openly transgender official to be confirmed by the Senate.
Vivek Murthy in a mask

Photo by Caroline Brehman-Pool/Getty Images

The U.S. Senate this week confirmed Dr. Rachel Levine and Dr. Vivek Murthy to appointments in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  

Murthy will once again be confirmed as U.S. Surgeon General, a position he held from 2014 to 2017.   

Levine will fill the role of the U.S. Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is the first openly transgender official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.  


Murthy and Levine were advanced out of committee this past month, setting the stage for their confirmation.   

The U.S. Senate confirmed Murthy on Tuesday by a vote of 57 to 43, with several Republican senators joining Democrats in supporting him.   

The vote stood in contrast to Murthy's slim confirmation in 2014. 

"I understand the role represents a sacred responsibility to look out for the health of each and every American," said Murthy in a statement on Tuesday.

"We have been through extraordinary hardship as a nation, with a pandemic that has caused tremendous suffering for countless Americans and taken the lives of so many, including members of my own family," continued Murthy.   

"I have also seen many reasons to be hopeful," he added.  

Levine, meanwhile, was confirmed in a 52-48 vote on Wednesday, with Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska voting alongside Democrats to confirm her.  

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., publicly announced on Wednesday that he would not be supporting Levine, citing his displeasure with her handling of the COVID-19 crisis as the state's top health official.


Murthy and Levine's confirmation follows that of HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a process that sparked partisanship and contention.

Despite the pitched battle, Becerra took his appointed seat this past week. Almost immediately, health advocacy groups clamored for him to take action to advance digital health initiatives.  

Becerra had previously signaled support for virtual care during his confirmation hearings – as had Levine and Murthy.  


"When it comes to ending this pandemic, we have a lot of work to do, and no time to waste," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in Senate floor remarks Wednesday.

"We're going to need all the help we can get, particularly from experts like Dr. Murthy and Dr. Levine, to get it done," she said.


Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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