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Obama picks rural Alabama family physician as next surgeon general

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's nominee for surgeon general has a reputation as someone with the kind of forceful personality that would make her effective as the people's health advocate.

Dr. Regina Benjamin is a family physician from a southern Alabama fishing community (Bayou La Batre). A decade ago, the New York Times described her as an "angel in a white coat," a country doctor who made house calls along the impoverished Gulf Coast and was paid only what her patients could scrounge.

Benjamin's nonprofit clinic was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, then rebuilt by volunteers only to burn down months later. On receiving a half-million "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation last fall, she spoke of accepting a $7 donation from a woman desperate for the clinic to be rebuilt again. Benjamin said, "If she can find $7, I can figure out the rest." She dedicated the grant money to finishing the job.

Her nomination for surgeon general requires Senate confirmation.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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