Humanitarian. Family Doctor. Trailblazer. Fighter. These are all fitting words used to describe the incredible Dr. Regina Benjamin, President Obama’s nominee for U.S. Surgeon General. In her life she has overcome tremendous odds, and has used tragedies in her life as fuel to make a significant impact on health and human services in this country.
Born in 1956 in Mobile, Alabama, her commitment to preventable diseases resulted from witnessing several family members’ lives destroyed by illnesses. Her father died after suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure, her mother from lung cancer after decades of smoking. After living with HIV, her brother and only sibling died at just 44 years of age. Though many people would have been debilitated from such devastation, Regina Benjamin continued to persevere.
Dr. Benjamin’s academic experience is particularly extensive. She attended Xavier University in New Orleans, was a member of the second class of the Morehouse School of Medicine, received an M.D. degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and completed her residency at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. As if this academic record was not enough, she added “MBA” to her CV after graduating from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business.
In 1990 she founded a clinic to serve the community in a rural, shrimp farming town in Alabama. Though the clinic has been virtually destroyed by hurricanes and a fire, she has worked tirelessly to rebuild the clinic three times, as she understands the significance of her clinic in small Bayou La Batre. During his announcement this past Monday, President Obama described
how her commitment has involved house calls while the clinic was being rebuilt, and taking the burden of mortgaging her home and incurring credit card debt.
A member of numerous boards, one of her most significant appointments came in 1995 when Benjamin became not only the first black woman, but also the youngest doctor ever elected to the board of the American Medical Association. She also was a Kellogg National Fellow and a Rockefeller Next Generation Leader, and has served as VP of the Governor’s Commission on Aging as well as the Governor’s Health Care Reform Task Force and the Governor’s Task Force on Children’s Health. Just last year, the MacArthur Foundation selected her as a recipient of the distinguished $500,000 “genius” grant. And if all of these accomplishments were not enough, somehow she has devoted time to missionary work in Honduras.
With her countless accomplishments and accolades including Time Magazine’s “Nation’s 50 Future Leaders Age 40 and Under, ” “Person of the Week” by ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, and “Woman of the Year” by CBS This Morning, there is no question why President Obama selected her for this prestigious post.