Regina M. Benjamin (2009-2013)
Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., was appointed by President Barack Obama as the 18th United States Surgeon General in July, 2009 and served a four-year term. Dr. Benjamin also oversaw the operational command of 6,700 uniformed public health officers who serve in locations around the world to promote, and protect the health of the American People. Dr. Benjamin served simultaneously as Surgeon General and as the first chair of the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council (National Prevention Council) ─ 17 cabinet-level Federal agencies that developed the road map for the Nation’s health – The National Prevention Strategy.
Before becoming “America’s Doctor,” she served her patients at the rural health clinic she founded in tiny, Bayou La Batre, Alabama, keeping the clinic in operation despite damage and destruction inflicted by Hurricanes Georges (1998) and Katrina (2005) and a devastating fire (2006).
She has a B.S. in chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana, an M.D. degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and an M.B.A. from Tulane University. She attended Morehouse School of Medicine and completed her family medicine residency in Macon, Georgia. Dr. Benjamin is the recipient of 22 honorary degrees.
She is former associate dean for Rural Health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in Mobile and past chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States. In 1995, she was the first physician under age 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. She served as president of the American Medical Association Education and Research Foundation and chair of the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs. In 2002, she became the first African-American female president of a state medical society in the United States when she assumed leadership of the Medical Association State of Alabama.
As Surgeon General, she focused her attention on prevention. Under Dr. Benjamin’s leadership implementation of the National Prevention Strategy (2011) became a reality, providing an unprecedented opportunity to shift the nation from a focus on sickness and disease to one based on wellness and prevention. Her vision paper, The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation (2010), showed Americans how to choose nutritious food, add more physical activity to their daily lives, and manage stress. She was an active supporter of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! (2010) initiative for children and Go4Life (2011), which encourages older adults to adopt or continue healthy lifestyles. Dr. Benjamin is noted for regularly leading community walks, exercises and dance. TheSurgeon General’s Every Body Walk! initiative (2013) encourages Americans to add walking to their daily routine to gain long term health benefits. Her philosophy proved popular: people should enjoy becoming and staying fit. Efforts championed by Dr. Benjamin in The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding (2011) highlighted the links between breastfeeding and healthy babies, promoted Baby Friendly Hospitals and encouraged businesses to support women who choose to breastfeed. She released two official reports updating the dangers of tobacco use: Report from the Surgeon General on How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease (2010) and Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General (2012). The 18th Surgeon General and National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention released the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (2012) to reduce the number of deaths by suicide, a public health issue that results in the death of 100 Americans each day. In 2013, Dr. Benjamin joined leaders of five U.S. federal agencies to announce Advancing Healthy Housing: A Strategy for Action, which unifies federal efforts to expand healthy housing, demonstrating the connection between housing conditions and residents’ health. She helped launch MyPlate (2011) and the Spanish version MiPlato (2011) to help educate Americans about nutrition and healthy eating. She continually supported the national Script Your Future medication adherence campaign. She promoted the value of health IT systems and electronic health records.
During her tenure as Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin was ranked as one of the “100 Most Trusted People in America” (Reader’s Digest May, 2013).