Regina M. Benjamin
The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in August 2006.
Regina M. Benjamin, MD, MBA, is Founder and CEO of the BayouClinic in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Born in 1956, she attended Xavier University in New Orleans and was a member of the second class of Morehouse School of Medicine. She received her MD degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and specialized in Family Medicine at the Medical Center of Central Georgia.
Returning to the region where she grew up, Benjamin opened a practice in Bayou La Batre, and since 1990 has been providing health care to the low income community, most of whom have no health insurance. Her philosophy is simple – “provide health care with dignity to all patients, whether they can pay or not.” To keep her clinic financially afloat, she spent several years moonlighting in emergency rooms and nursing homes. She obtained an MBA from Tulane to find ways to be more efficient and entrepreneurial in providing care for the poor. When a hurricane wrecked her office in 1998, she spent the next two years treating patients out of her Ford pickup. She rebuilt the building only to have Hurricane Katrina destroy it, along with the town and the local economy. She continued to provide care for patients on the stage of a shelter and later in a temporary trailer. With the help of volunteers the building was rebuilt, but it burned down the day before it was to reopen. She continues to work from the trailer and to do house calls.
Her extraordinary dedication and self-sacrifice have earned her consistent national media attention. She was named “Woman of the Year” by CBS This Morning , named by Time Magazine as one of the “Nation's 50 Future Leaders Age 40 and Under,” featured in a New York Times article “Angel in a White Coat,” and named “Person of the Week” on ABC World News Tonight. She recently appeared in stories on CNN and CBS Evening News. She was on the cover of Clarity magazine and Reader's Digest. She has been featured in numerous other publications, including Redbook, Southern Living, People, and Good Housekeeping.
Benjamin was the 1998 U.S. recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. In 1995, she was elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees, making her the first physician under age 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected. As the Medical Association State of Alabama President in 2002, she became the first African-American female president of a U.S. state medical society. She is Associate Dean for Rural Health at the University of South Alabama in Mobile where she administered the Alabama-AHEC program and USA Telemedicine Program.
Benjamin has had a long career in public policy. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine. She was appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services' Secretary to the Council of Graduate Medical Education and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and by the White House to the NIH National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. She serves on the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, and the Sullivan Commission on Diversifying the Healthcare Workforce. She served as vice-president of the Governor's Commission on Aging, and on the Governor's Health Care Reform Task Force and the Governor's Task Force on Children's Health. She also served on the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners and the Alabama State Committee of Public Health.
She was a Kellogg National Fellow and a Rockefeller Next Generation Leader. Some of her numerous board memberships have included Catholic Health Association, Catholic Health East, Federation of State Medical Boards, Leadership Alabama, Alabama Rural Health Association, Mobile Area Red Cross, Mercy Medical, Mobile Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Mobile, and Deep South Girl Scouts.
She is a trustee of Birmingham Southern College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Florida A&M University.
On July 13, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Benjamin to be Surgeon General of the United States.