Dr. Regina Benjamin
Obama picks Surgeon General
An African American from the Deep South gets the nod to be the nation’s doctor.
Dr. Regina Benjamin was nominated by President Barack Obama to the next surgeon general of the United States. And though she is not well known to the general public, she is not new to government service–having served in the Clinton administration under Secretary Donna Shalala, in the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, she also served on the governor’s task force and commission on aging in her home state of Alabama.
Dr. Benjamin has sterling credentials in the health field and seems well qualified for the job ahead. She not only has the academic credentials to be the nation’s physician, but she also has the scars to prove that she has bore the pain. As the founder and CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Benjamin was the subject of a Reader’s Digest article for rebuilding the clinic.
The accumulation of wealth never seemed to be a motivation in her pursuit of a decent health care facility. As a matter of fact, the location of her “rural” clinic speaks volumes about the measure of her commitment to good health care for the poor. In addition, Dr. Benjamin has experienced her own personal healthcare “trials and tribulations”: her mother died of lung cancer; her father, high blood pressure and diabetes; and her brother, HIV. All of which she implied were “preventable diseases,” and which would make her a valuable asset to the president’s healthcare initiative in Congress.
Dr. Benjamin attended Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans and received her M.D. degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She completed her residency in family practice at the Medical Center of Central Georgia and entered a solo practice in Bayou La Batre. She spent several years moonlighting in emergency rooms and nursing homes to keep her practice open and after receiving an MBA from the Freeman School of Business at Tulane University, she converted her office to a rural health clinic.
In describing the president’s choice, Congresswoman Diane Watson (CA-33) issued a statement saying: Dr. Regina Benjamin has an extensive and distinguished career in medicine and brings years of experience and understanding to the position of U.S. Surgeon General. I applaud President’s Obama’s nomination of this forward thinking, hands-on doctor as America’s next surgeon general.”
In 1998, Dr. Benjamin received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights and was named as one of the “Nation’s 50 Future Leaders Age 40 and Under,” by Time Magazine. She has been featured in a New York Times article, “Angel in a White Coat”; was chosen “Person of the Week” by ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings; “Woman of the Year” by CBS This Morning; and “Woman of the Year” by People Magazine.
In 2006, she was awarded the Papal Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice by Pope Benedict XVI and in 2008, Dr. Benjamin was named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report. Recently, the John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation awarded her A $500,000 “genius award.
She has described the surgeon general’s job “a physician dream” and President Obama has stated that Dr. Benjamin will bring the insight his administration needs as it struggles to revamp the nation’s health care system.