Celebrating Black History Month - Regina M. Benjamin
Regina M. Benjamin, MD, MBA, is the 18th Surgeon General of the United States. Born in Mobile, Alabama on October 26, 1956, Dr. Benjamin has dedicated much of her life to serving the poor. Dr. Benjamin has a B.S. in chemistry from Xavier University, an M.D. degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and an MBA from Tulane University. She attended Morehouse School of Medicine and completed her family medicine residency in Macon, Georgia.
In return for government assistance with her medical training, Dr. Benjamin committed to serving the local community. She fulfilled this pledge by founding the nonprofit medical clinic Bayou La Batre in Alabama. Despite damage from a fire caused by Hurricane George in 1998 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Dr. Benjamin sacrificed her finances and her medical service to keep the clinic operational, sometimes accepting oysters in lieu of payment from patients.
Before accepting the position of Surgeon General, Dr. Benjamin efforts to promote a healthier lifestyle earned her the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. She was also the recipient of a MacArthur Award, given to individuals who "show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work." In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Benjamin to her current position. As Surgeon General, “she provides the public with the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and the health of the nation and also oversees the operational command of 6,500 uniformed public health officers.”
Dr. Benjamin has received numerous awards for her efforts to improve the health of all persons through lifestyle changes and better access to medication. Dr. Benjamin is the recipient of 18 honorary degrees and was the first African American to head a state medical agency. In 1995, she was elected to the Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association, making her both the first physician under age 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected. She was also named by TIME magazine, that same year, as one of the "Nation's 50 Future Leaders Age 40 and Under."