President Obama has announced his nomination for the post of surgeon general: Dr. Regina Benjamin, a doctor in rural Alabama who has made headlines as a fierce advocate for the poor. Obama said today that Benjamin has seen first hand and up close many of the flaws of the current healthcare system and represents what is best about doctors who will do anything to heal the sick [Boston Globe]. The position is essentially a bully pulpit, from which the surgeon general can speak out on public health issues.
A decade ago, the New York Times called her “angel in a white coat,” a country doctor who made house calls along the impoverished Gulf Coast, paid whatever her patients could scrounge. From those early days she has emerged as a national leader in the call to improve health disparities, pushed by the need in her own fishing community of Bayou La Batre, Ala., and its diverse patient mix — where immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos make up a growing part of the population [AP]. She recently drew attention as she struggled to rebuild her destroyed health clinic in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In 2008, Benjamin received a MacArthur “genius” grant of $500,000, which she dedicated to the rebuilding of her clinic.
DISCOVER: 20 Things You Didn’t Know About… the Surgeon General
The Intersection: Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General? Here’s My Gripe
Image: MacArthur Foundation