Obama Announces Regina Benjamin As Surgeon General Pick

Dr. Regina Benjamin is President Obama's pick for surgeon general. The Alabama family physician has been an advocate for universal care, and is expected to have a role "at the table" in health reform, which would be an unusual degree of influence over policy for a surgeon general. Obama said Benjamin "represents what's best about health care in America."

CBS/Associated Press reports: "Having lost most of her family members to preventable diseases, such as HIV, diabetes, and lung cancer, Benjamin said she feels a personal connection to public health issues." Benjamin "is most famous for the role she played in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when she was determined to rebuild her rural health clinic in Bayou La Batre, Ala., despite hurricane and fire destruction." She received a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" last September for her clinic, which serves 4,400 patients. CBS also notes: "Benjamin became President of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama in 2002, becoming the first black woman to head a state medical society and received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. She is the Immediate Past-Chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States, and previously served as Associate Dean for Rural Health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine."

CBS quotes Benjamin on her vision: "'My hope, if confirmed as surgeon general, is to be America's doctor, America's family physician. ... As we work toward a solution to this health care crisis, I promise to communicate directly with the American people to help guide them through whatever changes may come with health care reform.'" (7/13).

Bloomberg reports on Benjamin's commitment to providing care to the underserved and will likely focus on issues such as doctor shortages, inefficient care, preventative care and better access to care in low-income and rural areas. Bloomberg notes: "Obama, at a White House ceremony yesterday, restated his support for winning passage this year of legislation to cover the estimated 46 million uninsured in the U.S. and rein in medical costs. Benjamin, whose nomination needs Senate approval, will be a crucial voice in the debate, he said."  James Rohack, president of the Chicago-based American Medical Association, said that "in an administration dedicated to revamping health-care, Benjamin will be one of the few physicians in a high-profile position within the Obama administration" (Nussbaum, 7/14).

NPR: "If she is confirmed, Benjamin would direct the operations of the 6,000-member U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a team of health professionals that promotes public health and disease prevention programs. She also would serve as the country's top educator on health matters ranging from childhood obesity to eliminating health disparities. The office is under the Department of Health and Human Services, which is overseen by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius" (Tedford. 7/13).

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