Selma doctors confident in Benjamin’s abilities

Published 12:37 am Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The nomination of Dr. Regina Benjamin for U.S. surgeon general has drawn some positive local response.

President Barack Obama made the announcement public Monday.

Dr. Boyd Bailey, program director for the residency program at UAB Selma Family Medicine in Selma, knows Benjamin pretty well. They worked together on a fellowship he had several years ago and they’ve organized some things together.

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“I think she’ll make an outstanding surgeon general,” Bailey said.

Key to Benjamin’s nomination is she is a primary care physician, one who understands where the medical care gaps are in this country, Bailey said.

Benjamin is inclined toward programs, such as Family Doc in the Bus, operated here in Selma to give the poor and the working who have no insurance coverage some medical attention.

Similarly Benjamin started a non-profit health clinic in Bayou La Batre, which was ruined by Hurricane Katrina; then burned down right after it was rebuilt after Katrina.

Last fall Benjamin received a “genius grant” of $500,000 from the MacArthur Foundation and promised to use the money to finish rebuilding the clinic.

Currently she operates from a brick building next to Bayou La Batre City Hall.

It’s this kind of practice she’s familiar with, Bailey points out.

“She’ll steer things in a direction so you don’t have to have a Doc in a Bus for gap measures,” Bailey said.

Dr. Monica Newton, a physician and member of the Selma City Council, remembers Benjamin from school.

“She spoke as the keynote speaker at my graduation from UAB Family Medicine in Birmingham some 10 years ago,” Newton said.

The physician labels Benjamin as “a fascinating, complex person with all the political , medical and communication skills to translate medical knowledge and policy into the lives and health of Americans.”

Newton also points to Benjamin’s work in south Alabama with the underserved as a major point in her favor.

Said Bailey, “I think it’s something for Alabama people to be proud of.”

Benjamin is from Daphne. She is the first African-American woman and first physician under 40 elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees.

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, who represents the 7th Congressional District, said he is thrilled Benjamin will use her talents and drive to serve the country.

“Those of us who have gotten to know Regina in Alabama appreciate what a treasure she has been and know that she will be come a landmark surgeon general,” Davis said. “As a friend, I am very proud of her.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.