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U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin to speak at Appalachian’s Dec. 12 commencement

rmbenjamin_t.jpgBOONE—U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin will deliver the commencement address Dec. 12 at Appalachian State University. She will speak on “The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation.”

Benjamin will address graduates of the College of Arts and Science, Reich College of Education and University College at 10 a.m. in the Holmes Convocation Center on campus. She will address graduates of the College of Fine and Applied Arts, College of Health Sciences, Hayes School of Music and Walker College of Business beginning at 2 p.m., also in the Holmes Center.

A total of 880 undergraduates and 222 graduates are candidates for graduation. In addition, 222 students completing degree requirements in August are also eligible to participate in the December ceremony.

The Surgeon General serves as “America’s Doctor” by providing Americans the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury.

Benjamin is the 18th Surgeon General of the U. S. Public Health Service. She was appointed to the post in July 2009 by President Barack Obama.

As surgeon general, Benjamin oversees the operations of the 6,500-member Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. The Office of the Surgeon General is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health in the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Benjamin has a BS degree in chemistry from Xavier University, an MD degree from the University of Alabama, Birmingham; and an MBA from Tulane University. She also has 11 honorary doctorates.

She completed her family medicine residency in Macon, Ga. She established a clinic in a small fishing village in Alabama to help its uninsured residents.

Her medical training was paid for by the National Health Service Corps, under which medical students promise to work in areas with few doctors in exchange for free tuition, giving one year of service for every year of paid tuition.

Benjamin is founder and former CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Alabama, former associate dean for rural health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in Mobile, and immediate past chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States.

In 1995, she was the first physician under age 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. She served as president of the American Medical Association Education and Research Foundation and chair of the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA). In 2002, she became president of the Medical Association State of Alabama, making her the first African-American female president of a State Medical Society in the United States.

Benjamin is a member of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine and a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. She was a Kellogg National Fellow and a Rockefeller Next Generation Leader. Her board memberships include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, Catholic Health Association and Morehouse School of Medicine.

In 1998, Benjamin received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. She was named by Time Magazine as one of the “Nation’s 50 Future Leaders Age 40 and Under.”

She was featured in a New York Times article, “Angel in a White Coat,” in People Magazine, on the December 1999 cover of Clarity Magazine and was on the January 2003 cover of Reader’s Digest. She was also “Person of the Week” on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, and named a “Woman of the Year” by CBS This Morning. She received the 2000 National Caring Award which was inspired by Mother Teresa, received the papal honor Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice from Pope Benedict XVI and was awarded a MacArthur Genius Award Fellowship.