Obama Picks Rural Physician for Surgeon General
By Al Cross
A woman who established a rural health clinic in a fishing community on the Alabama coast, then rebuilt it twice after hurricanes, is President Obama’s nominee for surgeon general of the United States.
Regina Benjamin (right) is founder and CEO of Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic. She won a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation last year and “has never sought the spotlight, but instead dedicated her medical career to helping underserved populations in a rural area of her home state.”
Marrecca Fiore reports for Fox News:
The under-the-radar Benjamin is certainly a contrast to Obama’s first pick for surgeon general, CNN TV doctor Sanjay Gupta, who turned down the job.
Lynda Waddington of the Iowa Independent writes:
Benjamin came to the small village when she was just out of medical school, as part of a national program that forgave tuition for doctors who would agree to serve in an impoverished area. When her commitment was met, she stayed. Even as she gained national notoriety and higher-profile job offers, she stayed.
She was the first African American woman president of a state medical association, and as Fiore reports:
… the first black woman and the youngest doctor elected to the American Medical Association’s board.
It remains to be seen exactly how much influence will be afforded to the office by the Obama administration, but having an individual in the post who has intimate knowledge of doctor drain, the nursing shortage and other basic barriers to access in rural areas can only benefit under-served areas throughout the nation. Benjamin is poised to be the third woman to serve in as surgeon general, and the first woman from a non-military background.
For reports on the nomination from The Associated Press and Benjamin’s local newspaper, the Mobile Press-Register, click here.
Al Cross, former Courier-Journal political writer, is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and The Rural Blog. Reprinted with permission from The Rural Blog.