Yesterday, President Obama nominated Regina Benjamin, M.D. to become the next Surgeon General of the United States. Dr. Benjamin’s background is impressive, from growing up in rural Alabama, attending medical school, working as a National Health Service Corps physican (in order to pay back her medical school loans), to sticking it out in New Orleans through at least a couple of major hurricanes, it would have been easy for her to move on to bigger and better things, but she didn’t. Dr. Benjamin has shown her dedication to providing healthcare to all people – regardless of ability to pay – in the running of her own clinic, and was awarded a coveted MacArthur Foundation Fellowship “genius award” in 2008 for her work.
What Benjamin’s appointment means for the public health and primary care communities could be substantial. As a committed primary care provider, Benjamin has espoused views that are in line with Pres. Obama’s views on access and the affordibility of healthcare – that is, everyone should have access to the care they need. In her own professional endeavors, she earned an MBA so that she could more efficiently run the business aspects of her practice. One would hope that if there is any politicial will left in Washington on matters relating to healthcare reform, physicians, nurses, psychologists, and others will no longer have to get a business degree in order to figure out how to provide care to their patients. While the post of Surgeon General doesn’t have the same powers it once did, the potential for a more signifiant role in the Obama administration is encouraging to primary care providers, free clinics, and other public services struggling to keep their doors open.
Hopefully, America will benefit from having a genius in the office of Surgeon General.