The first African-American female physician under age 40 to serve on the American Medical Association’s Board of Trustees and the first African-American woman to head up the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. These are just two of the major accomplishments of Regina Benjamin. She went on to become the US Surgeon General following a historic nomination by Former President Barak Obama.
Born in Mobile, Alabama, Benjamin comes from a family of pioneering women. Her mother raised her and her brother singlehandedly following the break-up of her marriage. Her grandmother was instrumental in establishing an African-American church in their hometown even holding Mass in her own home. Crediting these women as her inspiration, she received a Bachelor’s Degree in chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana. Benjamin went on the attend Morehouse School of Medicine before receiving an M.D. from the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
In March 2016 she was selected to serve as Chairwoman of the National Kidney Foundation’s CKDinsight summit. She is the founder of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Alabama, and is noted for her work to rebuild this vitally necessary clinic in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated parts of Louisiana and Florida in 2005. Regina Benjamin is further noted for her efforts to create a healthier America by addressing the ongoing concerns of obesity and the “Million Hearts” campaign aimed at preventing a million heart attacks annually.
Patricia Benjamin was the recipient of two Woman of The Year awards – one from CBS This Morning and one from People Magazine. She went on to receive the American Medical Association Foundation Leadership Award, the Trumpeter Award from the National Consumers League, and the Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal from Vanderbilt University.
Confirmation of her chosen career path came when Benjamin was a medical student. She says, “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.”
Not satisfied to use her medical training and knowledge for her own gain. Regina Benjamin has done everything from providing healthcare in a rural clinic in Louisiana to helping the displaced Americans devastated by the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. She continues to use her medical training to benefit the entire nation. Overcoming personal tragedies including the death of her only brother and the death of her mother scarcely one year apart, Benjamin has used her life as a testament to the power of giving back and offering a helping hand to the less fortunate. Her philosophy is, “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.”
How can you make a difference? Start by getting involved in community activities. Volunteering is a great way to learn about what’s needed, sharpen your skills and impact the world around you. Patricia Benjamin shows the world the power of giving back while caring for the current population and propelling future generations to greatness.