Monday, July 13, 2009

New Surgeon General of the United States

Alabama Physician Chosen as Surgeon General

By Gardiner Harris

Bill Starling/The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, via Associated Press Dr. Regina Benjamin

President Barack Obama has selected Dr. Regina Benjamin, an Alabama family physician, as the U.S. surgeon general, two administration officials said on Monday.

Mr. Obama will announce his selection officially at a Rose Garden ceremony at 11:40 a.m.

An African-American, Dr. Benjamin is nationally known for establishing a rural health clinic in Bayou La Batre, Ala. — a small shrimping village along the Gulf Coast. Hurricana Katrina destroyed the clinic in 2005, and then when it was rebuilt, the clinic burned down on the eve of re-opening.

In 2002, she became the president of the Alabama Medical Association, making her the first African-American woman to be president of a state medical society in the United States. In September, she was one of 25 recipients of the $500,000 “genius awards,” awarded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

She completed her residency in family medicine at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. She is a graduate of Xavier University, Morehouse School of Medicine and the University of Alabama School of Medicine.

The titular head of the U.S. Public Health Service, the surgeon general is a largely ceremonial post used by numerous administrations to communicate important health messages to the public. The office itself has only a handful of staff and must rely for research and support on the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the uniform of the surgeon general invests its wearer with credibility in the public’s eyes and has often led the wearer to distance themselves from the political priorities of the administration.

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