Can you name a past US Surgeon General other than C. Everett Koop? David Satcher? Joycelyn Elders? How about the hapless Richard Carmona, censored by the Bush Administration? This is a job needing some invigoration, and what better time than now? How about appointing a community organizer and a strong woman?
The surgeon general is the people's health advocate, a bully pulpit position that can be tremendously effective with a forceful personality.
[Regina] Benjamin has that reputation.
What's she done? It's the opposite of quitting.
Benjamin was the first black woman to head a state medical society, 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 in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, which serves 4,400 patients who would be hard-pressed to find care elsewhere.
More from the MacArthur Foundation:
Despite scarce resources, Benjamin has painstakingly rebuilt her clinic after each disaster and set up networks to maintain contact with patients scattered across multiple evacuation sites. She has established a family practice that allows her to treat all incoming patients, many of whom are uninsured, and frequently travels by pickup truck to care for the most isolated and immobile in her region.
Here's a more prosaic look:
A Healing Force
How one heroic doctor is helping her hurricane-ravaged town get back on the map
Her extraordinary dedication and self-sacrifice have already won Dr. Benjamin national recognition. In 1995, she became the first African-American woman, and the first person under 40, to be elected to the American Medical Association (AMA) Board of Trustees. Dr. Benjamin also serves on the Board of Physicians for Human Rights.
Dr. Benjamin is a 1998 Mandela Award Winner, a former Kellogg National Fellow, has been featured as ABC Television's Person of the Week, and in 1996 was chosen by CBS This Morning as Woman of the Year.
Here's the official word, via press release:
Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Regina M. Benjamin as Surgeon General, Department of Health and Human Services.
President Obama said, "Health care reform is about every family’s health and the health of our economy. And if there’s anyone who understands the urgency of meeting this challenge in a personal and powerful way, it’s the woman who will become our nation’s next Surgeon General, Doctor Regina Benjamin. I look forward working with her in the months and years ahead."
Having someone intimately familiar with rural issues and access issues, primary care and how the government can help and hinder that care is a real plus.
She joins such notables as Margaret Hamburg (FDA), Secretaries Napolitano (DHS), Sebelius (HHS) and Clinton (State) as agency and department heads for a complement of strong, visible and supremely competent women appointed by Obama (Sonia Sotomayor is soon to join them. As of this writing, by the way, none of them have quit their posts.)
We need a Surgeon General to speak for and to the public. Whether it's pandemic preparedness or health reform, someone has to explain where we are and where we need to go. This one shows exceptional promise as a communicator.
I can't wait to hear from this extraordinary and compassionate physician.
More discussion in PerfectStormer's diary.
Update [2009-7-13 14:25:27 by DemFromCT]: