Rural Alabama Doctor Chosen As Surgeon General

Dr. Regina Benjamin, Surgeon-General Designate of the United States

Dr. Regina Benjamin, Surgeon-General Designate of the United States

President Obama has chosen Dr. Regina Benjamin of Bayou La Batre, Alabama, to become U.S. Surgeon General. An alumna of both Xavier University and Morehouse College, traditionally black colleges, AP says:

Benjamin was the first black woman to head a state medical society, the State of Alabama Medical Association; received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights and just last fall received a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” But she made headlines in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with her determination to rebuild her rural health clinic Bayou La Batre, Ala., which serves 4,400 patients who would be hard-pressed to find care elsewhere.

CNN added:

In her profile on the National Institutes of Health web site, Benjamin writes about her calling to become a family doctor while in medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“I believe it was divine intervention — it was in medical school when I realized there was nothing else I’d rather do with my life than to be a doctor. I had never seen a black doctor before I went to college, so I did not have an idea that I wanted to be one. I never thought I that I couldn’t, but I never really thought about it at all.”

According to a 1997 article in Ebony, Benjamin said she applied to Yale University School of Law before she attended college. “They sent me a reply politely telling me that I needed my undergraduate degree first.”

To pay for college, she turned to the National Health Service Corps, which gave her a tuition reimbursement in exchange for committing to work in areas where there was a shortage of doctors.

That agreement took her to Bayou La Batre where she was the only doctor for 2,500 people, most of whom lived below the poverty line and spoke no English.

And those people were mostly from Southeast Asia: Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians. Blacks, poor whites, and Native Americans could be added to this mix. Hardly any could pay for medical care, much less have medical insurance.

Benjamin was also spotlighted as an ABC News “Person of the Week” in 1995.

I’m glad that Obama chose Benjamin; it shows that he wants to spotlight rural and underserved communities’ health concerns. And if he was looking for a fighter on health care issues, Benjamin is known to be a rousing speaker. I hope that Benjamin has someone to whom she can entrust with the clinic while she is doing her bit for the country. One media source called to the clinic, and found that it was going at a full, busy, daily case load. The clinic hung up on the reporter.

~ by blksista on July 13, 2009.

One Response to “Rural Alabama Doctor Chosen As Surgeon General”

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