When Dr. Regina Benjamin was confirmed as U.S. surgeon general last week, she became only the third African American and second Black woman to serve as America’s No.1 doctor.
The Alabama native, who earned the unanimous consent of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress’ upper chamber Thursday night, is "a relentless promoter" of programs to fight preventable illness, President Obama said in July when he nominated her.
Benjamin, 53, worked tirelessly taking care of poor patients in a Gulf Coast clinic she founded two decades ago in Alabama, The Associated Press reports. She was the first Black woman to serve on the board of the American Medical Association, and served a term as chairwoman of the group's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, according to AP.
After earning a bachelor’s from Xavier University of Louisiana in 1979, she attended Morehouse School of Medicine, and received a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1984. She completed her residency in family practice at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in 1987.
Benjamin is the third Black surgeon general. Dr. Jocelyn Elders was appointed by President Clinton in 1993, but he fired her a year later under pressure from conservatives who complained about her statement that masturbation should be taught to youths in an effort to deter riskier forms of sexual activity. Dr. David Satcher served as surgeon general under both Clinton and President George W. Bush, during his first term.