President Barack Obama on Monday nominated for his top health educator a rural family physician who has faced hurricanes, flood and fire to care for impoverished patients in the southern state of Alabama.
Obama says Dr. Regina Benjamin understands the needs of the poor and uninsured, making her uniquely qualified to be surgeon general as his administration tries to revamp the health care system.
CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta was seen as Obama's first pick for the job, but the administration confirmed in March that the 39-year-old neurosurgeon had taken himself out of the running.
While the surgeon general's job doesn't involve much policymaking responsibility, it's a platform for promoting public health.
For her part, Benjamin on Monday ticked off preventable diseases that have claimed nearly all her relatives — diabetes, high blood pressure, lung cancer.
She pledged to fight so that, in her words, "no one falls through the cracks as we improve our health care system."
The United States is the only developed nation that does not have a comprehensive national health care plan for all its citizens. Obama campaigned on a promise to provide health care coverage for all Americans; about 50 million of America's 300 million people are without health insurance.