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Not Even a Hurricane Can Stop Her

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Regina Marcia Benjamin is an American physician, former Vice Admiral of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and 18th U.S. Surgeon General. Benjamin also founded and directed a nonprofit primary care medical clinic in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Additionally, the physician was on the Board of Trustees for the Morehouse School of Medicine, and in 2002, she became the first African American woman to be president of a State Medical Society in the United States.

Benjamin uses her knowledge on public health and medicine to develop accessible community-based interventions and projects to decrease the disease burdens of her diverse clientele, which includes immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. These immigrants comprise a third of Bayou La Batre’s population. A committed expert and leader, Benjamin has been integral in establishing clinics across the country in remote or less accessible regions. Dedicated to helping others, Benjamin served as leader of the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Her work has earned her statewide and national recognition.

During her time as Surgeon General, Benjamin advocated for increased accessibility to public healthcare for the American populace and spread awareness on disease prevention methods. Under her leadership, the National Prevention Strategy was implemented in 2011. She was a trusted consultant on nutrition and stress management, publishing her knowledge in the paper The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation. Additionally, she promoted the importance and necessity of health IT systems and the utilization of electronic health records as a more efficient way to store and transfer critical patient information.

Lauded for her unparalleled dedication to serving the public and her patients, Benjamin was undeterred when her clinic in Bayou La Batre was destroyed by Hurricane George in 1998. The physician made house calls until the clinic was reconstructed. After the clinic’s destruction, and then again at the hands of Hurricane Katrina, Benjamin mortgaged her own home in order to rebuild. When a fire burned the clinic to the ground a day prior to its reopening, she appealed for aid to rebuild the center once again. While the appeals eventually scrounged enough funds to reconstruct (albeit on a much smaller scale), Benjamin continued to make house calls, paying for medicine out of her own pocket for patients unable to afford healthcare. When finances for the clinic were still in chaos, Benjamin kept serving patients, regardless of the clinic not having the funds to pay her.

Benjamin’s heroism, passion, and dedication have earned her a stellar reputation in the worlds of public health, public service, and medicine. For her work as Surgeon General, Benjamin was ranked one of the “100 Most Trusted People in America.”

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