Monday, July 13, 2009

Surgeon General Nomination

President Obama's administration appears to have found a new surgeon general in the woman the New York Times called the "angel in a white coat." Dr. Regina Benjamin, who became widely known as the travelling savior of the rural poor in Alabama, treated victims of both hurricanes and crippling poverty in the town of Bayou le Batre; she has also become Presiden't Obama's choice for Surgeon General, a decision to be announced later today.

It would take a lot of effort not to be awed by Dr. Benjamin's accomplishments. She began her career working on behalf of people often relegated to the margins, poor patients in extremely remote areas of Gulf Coast Alabama who could often pay little to nothing for her services. Yet even when she rose to national recognition, becoming the first black woman to be elected as the President of the Alabama Medical Association in 2002, she continued to pursue her work. In September she received the $500,000 "genius" grant from the MacArthur Foundation to rebuild her clinic after it burned down; the clinic had just months earlier been rebuilt after being destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Structural poverty traps, devastating hurricanes, and lack of funding have all conspired to create what should have been a hopeless situation, and yet Dr. Benjamin managed to find a model for providing healthcare in an extraordinary circumstance. With a troubled economy and a bankrupt healthcare system, the US today is facing a unique health challenge; I can't imagine anyone better suited to the job of facing this challenge. Congratulations to Dr. Regina Benjamin, and here's to a speedy confirmation.

Photo courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation,

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Dr. Benjamin is AWESOME! Her work is inspiring and innovative--congratulations to her in hopes of all the wonderful things she will achieve.