Rural Family Practice Physician Chosen as Surgeon General

President Obama has chosen a little-known family practice physician who runs a small clinic in a rural community on Alabama’s Gulf Coast as his Surgeon General of the United States.  She is Dr. Regina Benjamin,  who has spent her career tending to the healthcare needs of the poor.  According to Obama, “When people couldn’t pay, she didn’t charge them.  When the clinic wasn’t making money, she didn’t take a salary for herself.”artbenjaminnominationgi

Dr. Benjamin has committed herself to fighting the preventable illnesses that prematurely took the lives of both her parents, as well as her brother and sole sibling.  According to Dr. Benjamin, “I cannot change my family’s past, but I can be a voice to improve our nation’s healthcare for the future.”

Dr. Benjamin’s medical education was paid for by the National Health Service Corps, a federal program where students agree to pay back by working in areas that lack physicians for a specified time.  To honor that obligation, she founded the not-for-profit Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in 1990 in the fishing village of Bayou La Batre, AL.  She remains the practice’s CEO.

The clinic, which was heavily damaged by Hurricanes Georges and Katrina, burned to the ground several years ago.  Every time, Dr. Benjamin rebuilt, even if it meant mortgaging her house or maxing out her credit cards.  Despite the setbacks, Dr. Benjamin remains dedicated to providing quality healthcare to the village’s 2,500 residents.

Benjamin is a stark contrast to Obama’s first nominee for Surgeon General – Sanjay Gupta, a glamorous TV personality and globe-trotting neurosurgeon who raised the hackles of Senators and withdrew his nomination.

The Surgeon General post, which is used primarily as a bully pulpit on healthcare initiatives, requires Senate confirmation.

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