President Obama made history again Monday, nominating Dr. Regina Benjamin to be his surgeon general, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. But unlike Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, a fellow “woman from an under-represented minority,” Benjamin will probably have an easy confirmation hearing. What senator would oppose a MacArthur “genius” award winner “considered an angel-like figure” for her work among the rural poor in Alabama?
Benjamin’s selection did spark some debate: “Is she fantastic or, as some dissenters claim, merely marvelous?” said Christopher Beam in Slate. As a family practitioner, she has the “America’s doctor” part of the job down. “Where Benjamin will really distinguish herself, though—or fall face first—is in the role of advocate,” for Obama’s health-care reform but also less controversial wellness programs.
As far as advocacy goes, Regina Benjamin is no Sanjay Gupta, said Elise Foley in The New Republic. But “with all due respect to Gupta,” the CNN celebrity doctor and Obama’s first choice for surgeon general, “this may be a good thing.” Gupta would have excelled at the traditional ceremonial role of relaying health information to the public, but Benjamin’s work with the poor and uninsured, and emphasis on preventative medicine, could give her a real impact.