- NAME: Regina Benjamin
- OCCUPATION: Doctor
- BIRTH DATE: October 26, 1956 (Age: 57)
- Did You Know?: In 1995, Regina Benjamin became the first African-American woman and the first physician under age 40 to be elected to the American Medical Association's board of trustees.
- EDUCATION: Xavier University of Louisiana, Alabama School of Medicine, Tulane University, Morehouse School of Medicine
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Mobile, Alabama
- Full Name: Regina Marcia Benjamin
- AKA: Regina M. Benjamin
- AKA: Regina Benjamin
- ZODIAC SIGN: Scorpio
Best Known For
Physician Regina Benjamin worked as the 18th U.S. surgeon general, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009.
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Born on October 26, 1956, in Mobile, Alabama, Regina Benjamin became a clinician who served the fishing community of Bayou La Batre, providing much needed medical care. She has been recognized widely for her humanitarian spirit and was appointed the 18th U.S. surgeon general by President Barack Obama, with Benjamin pushing forth wellness and prevention initiatives. She resigned in 2013.
"I believe it was divine intervention—it was in medical school when I realized there was nothing else I'd rather do with my life than to be a doctor. I had never seen a black doctor before I went to college, so I did not have an idea that I wanted to be one."
"It should not be this hard for doctors and other health care providers to care for their patients. It shouldn't be this expensive for Americans to get health care in this country."
"Prevention is the foundation of public health and prevention is the foundation of an effective health care system."
"Yes, I love to dance, and whenever I'm at events and places with music, I will dance. That exercise is medicine. It's better than most pills."
"I want exercise to be fun... I don't want it to be so routine that you're bored with it. We used to jump rope a lot and double Dutch and went to a disco to have fun and enjoy ourselves."
"The scientific basis is that tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals and chemical compounds. When you inhale the smoke, the chemicals can reach your lungs very quickly and enter the bloodstream."
"My goal was to create a grassroots movement, to change our health care system from one focused on sickness and disease to a system focused on wellness and prevention."
"I hope I make a difference one person at a time. By making a patient feel better, by being able to tell a mother that her baby is going to be okay. Whether her baby is 4 or 44, the look on the mother's face is the same."
"I've had numerous obstacles along the way, but I tend not to think of them as obstacles, but as just temporary challenges that I had to get through. ... In practice, the challenge has been finding a way to keep my practice doors open economically and still deliver high quality care."
Regina M. Benjamin was born on October 26, 1956, in Mobile, Alabama. After her parents split, she was brought up by her mother, who was a domestic worker and cosmetologist, in a Catholic household. (Benjamin's grandmother had held Mass in her own home and eventually helped in the establishment of an African-American church in their area.)
Later citing the women in her family as mentors and inspiration, Benjamin went on to Xavier University of Louisiana, graduating with a B.S. in 1979—and also interning with the C.I.A.—before attending Morehouse School of Medicine and receiving an M.D. from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, in 1984.
Benjamin had received governmental funding for her medical school training which required her to serve as a physician in a designated community that needed physicians. Hence, in 1990, Benjamin established the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic, which serves a fishing coastal community on the Gulf Coast whose citizens have often been unable to access appropriate health care due to lack of insurance, financial constraints and/or geographical issues. Benjamin also earned her M.B.A. from the University of Tulane, realizing she would need a business acumen to raise money for her clinic, and was able to access federal funds to help keep things afloat.
As a community clinician, Benjamin allowed patients to pay whatever they could, in whatever form and took on a variety of expenses from her own pocket. She became loved by her patients and was recognized by the media for her outstanding contributions. She has also been a model of perseverance, with the clinic needing to be rebuilt multiple times after Hurricane Georges, Hurricane Katrina and a fire.
Benjamin faced great personal loss as well. During her time in La Batre, her brother and sole sibling died from AIDS-related complications; their mother died a year later from cancer, though Benjamin has said she believed their mother suffered greatly from heartache over her son's death.
Benjamin became a recognized leader in her field, and thus was the first African-American woman and the first physician under age 40 to be elected to the American Medical Association's board of trustees in 1995. She followed years later in 2002 with another big achievement, becoming the first black woman to lead a state-based medical society with her position as president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.
In 2008, Benjamin was a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award. Then in the summer of 2009, Benjamin was nominated by President Barack Obama to be U.S. surgeon general, a post that allows for a leader to shape national conversations around health.
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Explore our collection of pioneering African Americans in government and politics, including Alexander Lucius Twilight, the first African American to win election to public office; Hiram R. Revels, the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate; Carol Moseley Braun, the first black woman elected to the Senate; and Amelia Boynton, who became both the first African-American woman and the first female Democratic candidate to run for a seat in Congress from Alabama in 1964. View full biographies, photos, videos and more, only at Biography.com.
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