10 Things You Didn't Know About Regina Benjamin

President Obama nominated Benjamin to be surgeon general.

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1. Regina Benjamin was born in 1956 in Mobile, Ala., and raised in Daphne, where her divorced mother worked as a waitress.

2. Benjamin cites her "strong-willed and very compassionate" grandmother, who died when she was 9, as her mentor.

3. Her family has had a history of illnesses. Her father died of diabetes and hypertension, her only brother of an HIV-related illness, and her mother of lung cancer.

4. Benjamin served as a student intern-trainee for the Central Intelligence Agency while completing her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Xavier University in New Orleans. She graduated in 1979.

5. In 1990, she founded the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic, which serves the poor in a fishing community on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. About 80 percent of Benjamin's patients live below the poverty level.

6. She helped rebuild her clinic twice, after Hurricane Georges in 1998 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. During those times, she made house calls to her patients in her 1988 Ford pickup.

7. Benjamin never thought about becoming a doctor until she entered college. Before that, she said, she had never seen a black doctor.

8. In 1995, she became the youngest doctor and first African-American woman to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees.

9. In 2002, Benjamin became head of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, making her the first African-American female president of a state medical society in the United States.

10. Last year, she received a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," a $500,000 fellowship.

Sources:

U.S. National Library of Medicine
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Encyclopedia of Alabama
CNN