President Obama announced Monday he has chosen Dr. Regina Benjamin, a family practice doctor from the Gulf Coast, to serve as surgeon general.
The rural family physician has long provided medical care on the Gulf Coast. In 1990, she founded Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in the fishing village of Bayou La Batre, Alabama. The clinic was heavily damaged by Hurricane Georges in 1998 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but Benjamin rebuilt it each time and continued to offer medical care to the village’s 2,500 residents. Many of her family practice patients are uninsured, according to the MacArthur Foundation, which last year awarded her one of its $500,000 “genius” grants. Her patient population includes immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, who make up a third of Bayou La Batre’s population. Benjamin received a bachelor’s degree in 1979 from Xavier University of Louisiana, attended Morehouse School of Medicine from 1980 to 1982 and received an doctor of medicine degree in 1984 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Benjamin completed her residency in family practice at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in 1987 and has served as CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic since its founding in 1990.
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She earned a master’s degree in business administration in 1991 from Tulane University. Benjamin also served as the associate dean for rural health at the University of South Alabama’s College of Medicine and as president of the State of Alabama Medical Association from 2002-2003. She is the first woman, first African-American woman and first person younger than 40 to sit on the board of trustees of the American Medical Association, serving from 1995 through 1998. The position of surgeon requires Senate confirmation.