My late aunt once said: Give me my flowers while I can still smell them. Dr. Regina Benjamin, your bouquet has arrived.
Benjamin is President Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General, and no one deserves that title more. Although we have never met, we are colleagues by default. We are members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and are alumni of the National Health Service Corp. Benjamin worked at the Bayou La Batre clinic in Alabama; I practiced at the Bayou Comprehensive clinic in Louisiana. Everyone was aware that Benjamin worked in a humble trailer taking care of Southeast Asian immigrants and used personal funds to build and rebuild her clinic after it was devastated by two hurricanes and a fire.
Both Benjamin and I chose career paths less traveled. No weekends off. No lucrative salaries. Professional isolation and managing complex patients with very little support. My public health career continued in Florida, Benjamin remained in Alabama.
During Hurricane Katrina, Benjamin made house calls in a pickup truck to patients who were shut in; maxed out her credit cards and mortgaged her home so that she could rebuild her clinic that was totally destroyed. However, when your light shines brightly — people can’t help but notice.
Benjamin became an associate dean of a medical school department, the president of her state medical society and the recipient of the 2008 MacArthur Foundation genius award of $500,000. Any blessings and accolades that she has received are certainly well deserved.
The dedication and commitment of Dr. Regina Benjamin should be shared by all. The well-being of her patients always took precedence over money. Why on earth can’t our healthcare system do the same?