Could it be Barack Obama reads Coastal Living? President Obama recently tapped Alabama native Dr. Regina Benjamin as his choice for U.S. Surgeon General. While many in our nation are hearing her name for the first time, she's been on our radar for years.
Dr. Benjamin gained notoriety after founding the Bayou La Batre
Rural Health Clinic in rural Bayou La Batre on Alabama's Gulf Coast. We saluted her efforts in our November/December 2002 issue. Here's what she had to say then:
She’s “the Angel of Bayou La Batre,” not just for her personalized medical care but also for a demeanor as sweet as Alabama’s royal red shrimp.
On any given day, in her nonprofit clinic near the fishing docks of Bayou La Batre, Dr. Regina Benjamin busily tends to an uninsured fisherman with diabetes or a tourist attached to a hook. Her good work is also recognized beyond Mobile Bay. This year the Alabama native became the first African American to become president of the state’s medical association and the nation’s first African-American female to hold the spot. Regina shrugs off accolades, preferring, she says, hugs from the “down-to-earth, genuine people” around her.
On her patients: “A lot of my patients don’t have insurance, so by the time they see me, it’s really late in the game. That’s tough. Everyone seems to just want to talk honestly with someone who cares about them.”
On her goal: “Right now I’m trying to recruit a doctor who can help me here, but it takes a special kind of person who’s not in the business as much for the money as the personal rewards.” (Regina sometimes gets paid with a bushel of peas or cooler full of the day’s catch.)
On the seafood-rich Gulf: “I’m just like Bubba Gump––I could eat shrimp all day, any way. Especially boiled. I love to spread newspaper out on a table with seafood I’ve seasoned with whatever’s in the cabinet.”
On coastal Alabama: “My family has been here since the early 1800s. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. I love the breeze, the smell of wisteria––the sunsets, especially. There’s nothing like them. And the water here is so calming. Every day it’s different. Sometimes blue, sometimes gray, sometimes muddy. It’s like a person with an ever-changing personality.” —Denise Gee
For more on Dr. Regina Benjamin and her accolades visit Time.com.