Regina Benjamin

Regina Benjamin Physician and educator Regina Benjamin (1956- ) is a nationally recognized humanitarian and an expert in rural medicine. She has dedicated her professional life to providing medical care for the community of Bayou La Batre, Mobile County. Benjamin also serves on a number of boards and commissions and has been featured in the national media. She was nominated for the office of U.S. Surgeon General on July 13, 2009, by Pres. Barack Obama and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 29, 2009, becoming the 18th Surgeon General. Benjamin is one of three Alabama physicians to serve as a surgeon general, along with Luther Terry and David Satcher.

Regina Marcia Benjamin was born in 1956 in Mobile and raised in Daphne by her divorced mother, who worked as a waitress. She graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans and then entered medical school at Atlanta's Morehouse College. Two years later, she transferred to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, earning a medical degree in 1984. That same year, Benjamin began her internship and residency program at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, focusing on family medicine. In 1987, in conjunction with the National Health Service Corps, she returned to Alabama and opened a practice in Bayou La Batre, a rural town whose economy centers largely on fishing and shrimping. She was the town's only doctor until April 2000 and achieved recognition for improving the health of local residents. In 1991, Benjamin completed an M.B.A. degree at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin In 1995, the American Medical Association (AMA) appointed her to its board of trustees, making her the youngest person and the first African American female to serve. Three years later, she received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. In 2002, she was named president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, becoming the first African American woman to head the organization. Benjamin has been honored with a number of humanitarian, medical, and civic awards. She is a current member of the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs and the co-author of How's Your Health? What You Can Do To Make Your Health and Health Care Better. Benjamin is also a member of the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine and served on the boards of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and Physicians for Human Rights, among others. She was a Kellogg National Fellow and a Rockefeller Next Generation Leader and is also a trustee of Birmingham-Southern College and Florida A&M University. In 1994, Time magazine selected Benjamin as one of its "Fifty Future Leaders under 40."

Benjamin is the former associate dean for rural health in the College of Medicine at the University of South Alabama (USA) and also served as medical director of what was then known as USA's Office of Rural Health and director of the university's telemedicine department, now known as the Office of Emerging Health Technologies.

Regina Benjamin in Bayou La Batre She was appointed by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala to the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act Committee and to the Council of Graduate Medical Education, and is a member of the Step 3 Committee. In Alabama, she has served as vice president of the Governor's Commission on Aging and as a member of the Governor's Health Care Reform Task Force and the Governor's Task Force on Children's Health. Benjamin is a tireless promoter of the cause of rural health care, both in the United States and in Alabama. In 2006, she was awarded the papal cross from Pope Benedict XVI and in 2008 was one of 25 recipients of a "Genius Award" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Both Dartmouth College and the University at Albany have awarded her honorary doctorates.

On October 29, 2009, she was confirmed as the 18th Surgeon General of the United States and since has worked on the cause of affordable and accessible healthcare for all Americans and on promoting healthy eating. She remains CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic. On July 16, 2013, Benjamin resigned from her position as Surgeon General and took a position as the Endowed Chair in Public Health at her alma mater, Xavier University of Louisiana. She continues to volunteer her time at her medical practice in Bayou La Batre.

Further Reading

  • Byrd, Veronica. “Advocate for the Uninsured.” Essence 31 (July 2003): 28.
  • “Doctor Fights Sickle Cell from the South.” Modern Healthcare 30 (May 22, 2000): 35.
  • May, Lee. “Regina Benjamin: A Singular Doctor in a One-Doctor Town,” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, March 24, 1996, p. 36S.
  • Wasson, John, and Regina Benjamin. How’s Your Health? What You Can Do To Make Your Health and Health Care Better. Lebanon, N.H.: FNX Corporation, 2005.

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