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Having reviewed her sterling credentials as a doctor (and as a human being, she's a mensch,) I wanted to know from a public health expert what they thought of the nomination of Regina Benjamin to the post of Surgeon General. And who better to ask than Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Heatlh Association (no relation.) We've interviewed the APHA's Dr. Benjamin on Daily Kos, and we thought he'd have a unique perspective on the nominee. Dr. G. Benjamin's response:

There are ten essential services that public health practioners believe
comprise the core of the work that we do. They are (From CDC):

  1. Monitor health status to identify and solve community health problems.
  1. Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community.
  1. Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues.
  1. Mobilize community partnerships and action to identify and solve health problems.
  1. Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts.
  1. Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety.
  1. Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable.
  1. Assure competent public and personal health care workforce.
  1. Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services.
  1. Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.

Of these Dr. Benjamin has engaged in all of these services at various times during her career. Many of us have come into the world of public health from years of clinical practice. In fact, most state health commissioners come from the practice side of the house. In addition we often say public health does three things: Access community health, develop policy to address the needs, as well as provide assurance through clinical and nonclinical services. Dr. Benjamin's experience in looking at the health of her community and that of the nation in her many volunteer roles; her impressive career as a health policy developer through organizations like the Institute of Medicine; and her life long dedication to providing care for her community through her clinic all meet these principles. If public health practice is the art and commitment of ensuring the health of a population, then Dr, Benjamin is one ideal example.

Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP(E), Hon FRSPH
Executive Director  

That, she is. A day later, this looks even better as a choice. Mike Stobbe the health reporter at AP, notes one reason why.

The U.S. Surgeon General has been described as "the nation's doctor," a "national nanny" and the person who puts warning labels on cigarette packs. But lately, the position has been mostly called something else: invisible...

Public health experts say the person who holds the job is as important as the surrounding administrative framework. They say the surgeon general must boldly discuss what public health science dictates, even when political bosses disagree. Koop has said a surgeon general needs to be willing to walk away from the job to preserve that principle.

Some who know Benjamin say she can be soft-spoken at times, and is not likely to be the kind of firebrand that people remember in Koop and Dr. Joycelyn Elders. Some suggested Benjamin, 52, is more in the frank but lower-key style of another accomplished surgeon general, Dr. David Satcher, who served in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

She'll need to be frank, and she'll need to be clear. America needs a Surgeon General who can speak truth to power. We only remember the ones that do.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 05:30 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's... (8+ / 0-)

    ...freaking time we had some people in there with respect for science. I hope she speak truth to power in all respects no matter who is pissed off by it (I'm looking at YOU, Jocelyn Elders). Science is a method, not a political party.

  •  I think she is a brilliant choice for Surgeon Gen (10+ / 0-)

    What doctor works in the country and makes house calls anymore?  It is a warning shot across the bow by the Obama Administration for whiny doctors who want everything handed to him.

    Have you forgotten about Jesus? Don't you think it's time that you did?

    by uc booker on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 05:37:19 PM PDT

  •  It's all about the Benjamins... (6+ / 0-)

    Best pick yet.

    Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God. - Thomas Jefferson

    by Ezekial 23 20 on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 05:42:17 PM PDT

  •  Positions such as this as well as Cabinet (5+ / 0-)

    positions are there to execute policy as a rule not make policy the rare exception is Geithner

    One "cocktail situation" occurred recently at the annual Gridiron Club dinner. Mr. LaHood was seated at the head table near Mr. Chu, and between Arne Duncan and Timothy F. Geithner, the education and Treasury secretaries. The men asked Mr. LaHood if they could flee the dinner before the interminable speechifying ended. No, Mr. LaHood counseled.

    "I said, ‘Look, you’re window dressing,’ " Mr. LaHood said. " ‘You’re more of a prop. But it’s part of what we have to do.’ " Mr. Chu and Mr. Duncan heeded the advice; Mr. Geithner did not.

    So it boils down to what is the President's public health policy.

    Dear GOP&Conservatives If all you have to offer are Cliches and Hyperbole then STFU. Thanks XOXOXO

    by JML9999 on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 05:44:41 PM PDT

    •  Somewhere in between (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JML9999, kaolin, licorice114
      Just like in any organization, President Obama will set the overall direction.  Presumably she's in sync with his broad strategic goals.  However, he does not have the bandwidth to personally research and make every policy decision, and will delegate lower level policy matters to his staff and listen to recommendations on broader issues.

      So presumably her overall outlook is compatible with Obama's, and she'll have plenty of opportunity to lobby for what she believes best.  For someone who has done what she has, I doubt insurers and other big interests hold much fear for for her.

      On another point, to what someone else brought up -- don't confuse quiet and superficially low-key with meek.  To borrow a phrase from the other side of the aisle (when that side was rational), speak softly and carry a big stick.  She may not be brash in the manner of, say, George Bush, but I have little doubt that she can accomplish more in her sleep than Bush could in 8 years.  By the sound of it, she is not a person I would want to cross!

      •  more from Georges Benjamin (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JML9999, kaolin

        the quote listed was directly to us. This is what he said to WebMD:

        Georges Benjamin says Regina Benjamin also comes well prepared to deal with the political challenges of the surgeon general's job, which will heat up as Obama and Congress attempt to forge a path toward health care reform. "There's no more political environment than the board of trustees of the AMA [American Medical Association]," says Georges Benjamin. "She understands bureaucracies and the political environment. She's dealt with state legislators in Alabama. She's presented for the AMA on Capitol Hill. She's no rookie."

        "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

        by Greg Dworkin on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 06:15:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Still not quite (6+ / 0-)

    used to the concept of picking the best person for the post rather than the most politically malleable.

    Superb choice and a toast to the fact that adults are back in charge - Sessions, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

  •  from what i've read about her... (7+ / 0-)

    she'll do just fine...

    larger version

    I didn't get Jack from Abramoff...I'm not a Republican!

    by nonnie9999 on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 05:46:38 PM PDT

  •  One of the few jobs where the holder (4+ / 0-)

    can make the job what he/she wants it to be, I think.  It would be nice to see someone take the ball and run with it, for the sake of the entire country.

    Best luck to her.

  •  I think of my (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kaolin, alethea, HylasBrook, licorice114

    good friend who is a nun and was in Liberia during the revolution re: Benjamin.  "Lena" tended to the machete amputees, rape victims and gut shot wounds.  She understood what the poorest of the poor endured and yet practiced as a nurse rather than a missionary.  We need a Surgeon General who knows the ravages of not only poor health care but violence in this country.  Dr. Benjamin is a terrific pick.  Sadly, she seems to have "empathy."

  •  Obama got it second time right on his (5+ / 0-)

    healthcare team - Regina and Sebelius way way better than Sanjay Gupta & a$$wipe Tom Daschle. Can't believe Obama even considered Gupta & Daschle.

  •  The Right Wingnuts Will Scream (5+ / 0-)

    That Bill Frist should become Surgeon General , based upon his uncanny and unmatched ability to perform video-tape diagnosis............

  •  She Is A Steel Magnolia (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kaolin, semctydem

    She won't be no shrinking violet.

  •  She is a strong person. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kaolin, semctydem

    May the politicians leave her to do her job, including the President.

  •  As an Alabaman... (12+ / 0-)

    ...and after the embarrassment Jeff Sessions has been over the past few days years, I'm just thrilled that the rest of the nation gets to see the best we have to offer, as well.

    Godspeed, Dr. Benjamin.

    "That flag flying over the courthouse / means certain things are set in stone / Who we are, what we'll do, and what we won't." - Springsteen

    by turnover on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 05:58:49 PM PDT

  •  I hope she will be bold enough (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kaolin, semctydem, licorice114

    to help the administration push for a strong public option. As a Physician, she will be in a unique position to comment on the wingnut talking points.

    Sounds like a great choice.

    Educate yourself. Think for yourself. Be yourself. Act for others.

    by DHinIA on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 06:00:19 PM PDT

  •  This was very needed (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kaolin, semctydem

    When it comes to knowing about government stuff, I try not to be be a slouch, but the position of Surgeon General has always been quite mysterious to me. What the job entails, what is its mission, and what an effective officer holder must do really needed a clear explanation.

    So this was helpful.

    And Benjamin looks to be pretty much the perfect choice.

    Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

    by The Raven on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 06:01:11 PM PDT

  •  I wonder if Shelby is on the committee that (0+ / 0-)

    will question Dr. Benjamin.

    Which committee will she testify to?

    The land was ours before we were the land's...Robert Frost, The Gift Outright

    by HylasBrook on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 06:02:04 PM PDT

    •  presumably (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jwinIL14, kaolin

      Senate HELP committee.


      Democrats by Rank

      Edward Kennedy (MA)
      Christopher Dodd (CT)
      Tom Harkin (IA)
      Barbara A. Mikulski (MD)
      Jeff Bingaman (NM)
      Patty Murray (WA)
      Jack Reed (RI)
      Bernard Sanders (I) (VT)
      Sherrod Brown (OH)
      Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA)
      Kay Hagan (NC)
      Jeff Merkley (OR)

      Republicans by Rank

      Michael B. Enzi (WY)
      Judd Gregg (NH)
      Lamar Alexander (TN)
      Richard Burr (NC)
      Johnny Isakson (GA)
      John McCain (AZ)
      Orrin G. Hatch (UT)
      Lisa Murkowski (AK)
      Tom Coburn, M.D. (OK)
      Pat Roberts (KS)

      "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

      by Greg Dworkin on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 06:11:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  i hope she's strong on educating and informing (4+ / 0-)

    young people about contraception; these abstinence only policies are whacked~!

    "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit." Edward Abbey

    by timbuck on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 06:06:32 PM PDT

  •  My hopes were high, but wow... not this high. (6+ / 0-)

    One of the best Obama nominations to date IMHO. This doctor is just what the country ordered, and hopefully the MSM will get clue and give her plenty of microphone time.

    "It's just amazing what people will do to get out of being the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee."

    by jwinIL14 on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 06:09:14 PM PDT

  •  I have some reservations... (0+ / 0-)

    ...that someone who was on the board of the AMA actually gives a hoot about public health. Why would one serve on the board of an organization that has opposed public health for decades if one didn't agree with the organization and its policies?

    Just askin'.

    "There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, and ammo. Please use in that order." --- Ed Howdershelt (Author)

    by SciMathGuy on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 06:40:42 PM PDT

  •  I heard that she once said (0+ / 0-)

    that you have to have gone to medical school and be a doctor in order to make an effective surgeon general.  that should disqualify her immediately! (snark)

    "The political core of any movement for freedom in the society has to have the political imperative to protect free speech." bell hooks

    by patgdc on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 06:55:08 PM PDT

    •  Public health is not clinical medicine (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Of course, If Dr. Benjamin had made such a comment, it would be correct. I'm not sure if there's a law, but the history of the position is that an MD must hold it.

      Dr. Benjamin is clearly and highly qualified, given the organization and policy issues she has dealt with in her particular practice. And I'm another Alabaman glad to see some good publicity for the state. I honestly have no complaints about her nomination.

      Still ... the job is supposed to be public health advocate in chief, not personal physician in chief. It wouldn't bother me a bit if we changed the title and considered any top public health professional for the position.

      For example, let's say we could just snap our fingers and get universal access today. Alas, people would not magically stop engaging in unhealthful behaviors.  You can lead a horse to water and all.

      That's exactly why we have behavioral scientists in public health. Why should they be considered incompetent to serve as an administration's primary advocate for public health?

      _Karl Rove is an outside agitator._

      by susanala on Wed Jul 15, 2009 at 06:03:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  excellent points! (0+ / 0-)

        Dr G Benjamin lays out what is needed, and I would  not qualify despite having an MD and some practice as a communicator. Public health is not clinicial medicine.

        "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

        by Greg Dworkin on Wed Jul 15, 2009 at 07:58:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  has anyone seen . . . (0+ / 0-)

    . . . what her stance on pro-choice vs forced-birth is?  The country doesn't need another "let's compromise on science/women's health to appease the right wing religious groups" choice.

    This is not to say that a right wing religious person might not be wonderfully caring . . . to a point.  The question is where they draw the line on church/state separation.

    The current administration seems much too willing to blur that line.


  •  Dr Benjamin (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DemFromCT, sharonsz, susanala

    is a local hero here in LA (lower Alabama).  She's had to rebuild her clinic serving Bayou La Batre twice following Katrina and later a fire.  Clinic was rebuilt with mainly local contributions.  She has maintained her services to a poor community although she could probably have been making lots more elsewhere I would suspect.

  •  Honest to god twitter comment (0+ / 0-)

    "She's not even a surgeon"

    "My case is alter'd, I must work for my living." Moll Cut-Purse, The Roaring Girl - 1612, England's First Actress

    by theRoaringGirl on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 10:17:46 PM PDT

  •  Your final paragraph is great! (0+ / 0-)

    And I quote:  

    "She'll need to be frank, and she'll need to be clear. America needs a Surgeon General who can speak truth to power. We only remember the ones that do."

    And that is why I remember Jocelyn Elders best of all.  I can't help but wonder where we'd be if she hadn't resigned, or better yet, if Clinton had insisted she stay.  

  •  Dr. Regina Benjamin (0+ / 0-)

    A uniquely dedicated MD who has rebuilt her clinic for low-income people on the fragile Gulf Coast numerous times, facing physical and other disasters that would have driven others to quit.  Inspirational!

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