U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin has dedicated her career to making sure that “no one falls through the cracks.” As a practicing physician, she kept her rural clinic open in Alabama, despite being destroyed three times by fires and hurricanes. When Hurricane Katrina struck, Benjamin personally placed medical charts in the post-storm sun to dry and made house calls to check on her patients. Benjamin has dedicated her career to disease prevention, smoking cessation and healthy lifestyles. This month, DW honors United States Surgeon General Regina Benjamin as a Disruptive Champion.
Nominated in 2009 by President Obama, Benjamin has made tremendous strides in preventative care and public health. Through her initiatives concerning obesity, fitness, suicide, and more, she has shown America that the future of health care lies not just in treating disease but preventing them. After four years serving as the United States Surgeon General, Benjamin will step down in July.
Benjamin’s dedication to public health began long before her appointment to Surgeon General. In 1987, she founded the Bayou Le Batre Rural Health Clinic in a small town on the gulf coast of Alabama, where she treated patients regardless of their ability to pay.
In 1995, Benjamin made history, becoming the first African-American woman and doctor under forty to be elected to the Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association. In addition to this historic achievement, Benjamin served as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Federation of State Medical Boards, an organization that represents the seventy medical boards in the United States. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, a group that advocates for and educates people about the practice of family medicine.
As Surgeon General, Benjamin has devoted her time to improving many aspects of American’s health. She developed programs focused on encouraging minorities to exercise, published “The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy Fit Nation” which discussed the disturbing rate of obesity in the United States, and promoted grassroots efforts to educate families on health and fitness. Benjamin was also a strong supporter of the “Million Hearts” campaign in an effort to prevent one million heart attacks every year. In 2012, Benjamin published the, “The 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, a report from the U.S. Surgeon General and the Action Alliance,” which outlined thirteen goals concerning suicide prevention over the next ten years.
Whether working towards providing exceptional care to those in need in rural Alabama or fighting for increased preventative care options as Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin has fully committed herself to improving health care access and quality for all. Her drive and commitment to providing every American with the resources to improve their own health will hopefully continue to be a tenant in the United States health care system.
Janice Freeman is a sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is working towards a double degree in International Business and English Language and Literature. She is also involved with the Music Business Association and the University Literary Magazine, Stylus. She is currently interning with Amplify Public Affairs and Disruptive Women in Health Care