President Obama announced yesterday his appointment of Regina Benjamin, MD to the position of surgeon general. The President commented that Dr. Benjamin, who has lost relatives to diabetes, high blood pressure, and blood cancer, has a deep understanding of the health needs facing the United States. “And if there’s anyone who understands the urgency of meeting this challenge in a personal and powerful way,” said the President, “it is the woman who will become our nation’s next surgeon general, Dr. Regina Benjamin,” reported the Washington Post.
Dr. Benjamin, a family physician, founded the Bayou La Batre Health Clinic on the gulf coast of Alabama in 1990 and served local residents through Hurricanes George and Katrina. Her clinic treats patients regardless of their ability to pay. Dr. Benjamin also has advanced degrees in medicine and business administration. She received a genius grant last year from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and was named as one of America’s best leaders by US News and World Report.
President Obama initially considered CNN broadcaster and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta for the position, but Gupta withdrew from consideration to spend time with his family and to focus on his medical practice. According to the Sun Sentinel while the surgeon general is not responsible for making policy, he or she has an important platform for improving public health. President Obama’s appointment of Dr. Benjamin must be confirmed by the Senate.