Monday, July 13, 2009

Regina Benjamin, MD, Family Physician

I was pleasantly surprised when I turned on the TV at the noon hour to see the President nominate Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA to be the next Surgeon General. Since the election, there has been much speculation on who the next Surgeon General would be. And, even today, this news is probably going to be overshadowed by news like the President's nominee to the Supreme Court.

I just wanted to share an experience that I had with Dr. Benjamin which continues to inspire me today. If you didn't already know, Dr. Benjamin is a Family Physician (like I am). I first heard Dr. Benjamin's story when she was a keynote speaker at the 2006 American Academy of Family Physicians National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students. I chaired the planning committee that year. (I also moderated a panel that year. Click here to learn more about that).

To put this into context, this conference was almost exactly one year following Hurricane Katrina. I don't exactly remember the theme of the conference, but the concepts of service and helping those in need resonated in the selection of the speakers that year. The committee was very excited when Dr. Benjamin was able to be a speaker.

If you haven't already heard her story, I encourage you to read this article from the conference for a more complete compilation of her remarks. She founded a rural health clinic on Alabama's Gulf Coast in 1990. When she started to tell the story of Katrina and the aftermath, the room of medical students, residents, doctors, and guests, became silent hanging on her every word.
Family physicians are "truly blessed" by the trust that patients give them, said Benjamin, calling on residents and students to become leaders in their communities. Patients tell FPs their deepest, darkest secrets and allow them to hold their babies, she said. But with that gift of trust comes the responsibility to lead, she added.

"Kids look up to you, and as you continue to rise in your positions of leadership, you always have to reach back and pull someone else up with you," Benjamin said. A good leader will push those rising stars out in front and support them from behind, she added.

As she neared the end of her presentation, Benjamin encouraged her audience with these words: "It costs money to keep our doors open, but money isn't everything. We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give. The most valuable thing you can give is yourself."
There are many times on this blog when I have scoffed at government - especially at what it does and does not do. But, this time, I support Dr. Regina Benjamin and hope that she is confirmed to be the next Surgeon General. In her words at today's announcement, she said that she wants to become "America's Family Physician." I support her in this endeavor.

My only concern is how the White House utilizes her in seeking to pass their version of health care reform this year. A lot of docs, especially family docs like myself, will be watching this very closely. My hope is that Dr. Benjamin will continue to keep the patient first and not let politics get in the way of that.


Anonymous said...

I first met Reg in 2001; she is passionate about preventive health and access to health care, and has a humility unusual for someone of her extraordinary talents and accomplishments...the nation could find no one better, and needs no one more!

Chrystal K. said...

Congrats Dr. Benjamin!

Anonymous said...

the medical school she graduated from is one of the worst in the country, with an average GPA making anyone feel they could get in. Im not sure I would trust any doctor graduating from that program

Anonymous said...

Terrible choice. Perhaps a good heart but not much knowledge about macrohealthcare. She sure wasn't very good at preventing illness in her own family, why would she do any better on a national scale.

Anonymous said...

As far as gpa's at the medical school where she graduated from, where did you get that information? Please share. It's not fair to make those kind of statements without revealing the sources. Also, what does a gpa have to do with being a good doctor to your patients? I just looked up her medical school and they achieved a 100% board pass rate in 2007,while they consistently average 96% or better, and the national average is 94%. You can find that on Also, out of 3,600 students who applied, only 52 were admitted. That sounds pretty competitive to me. I'm not all into stats and numbers because I don't think that defines anyone; however, be careful before making incorrect and potentially damaging statements. You would not want that done to you.

And as far as her knowledge about macrohealthcare, please name the previous surgeon generals who have specifically had that knowledge, and document your sources. How do you know that she does not have much knowledge about macrohealthcare? Where did you get that information? She has an MBA... she has re-built her clinic twice (after hurricaines) in an impoverished area... she's got to know something about sustaining healthcare, be it on a micro- or macro- level. And finally, what doctors do you know that are able to prevent illnesses in there own families? That's a hard task for any doctor to do anywhere. Please list those surgeon generals and doctors that were successful in preventing illnesses in their families AND provide us with documentation of your sources.

Remember, blanket statements without the facts are of poor character and have the potential to cause unnecessary damage. So I suggest that you should continue to build your character with integrity and compassion, because when you are called to the table, you want to have a leg to stand on.

Best wishes Dr. Benjamin!

Anonymous said...

I met Dr. Benjamin when I did not have insurance and she helped me through a hard time when I could not afford good quality health care. She treated me with respect and I feel I got the best medical care. She is an angel to the poverty stricken south and an angel to all she meets

Anonymous said...

I Love You Dr. Benjamin, you are the best doctor and some ingorant people are just jealous of your kindness and success. Keep up the good work and keep doing Gods work. We love you,
from Mobile Alabama and DELTA SIGMA THETA Sorority