WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's nominee for surgeon general has Alabama roots.
Dr. Regina Benjamin is a rural family physician who has faced hurricanes, flood and fire to care for impoverished patients along Alabama's Gulf Coast.
Mr. Obama says Benjamin understands the needs of the poor and uninsured, making her uniquely qualified to be America's doctor as his administration tries to revamp the health care system.
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."
Dr. Benjamin received praise from several Alabama leaders. "Dr. Benjamin's contributions to furthering rural health care and to public service are extraordinary. Her dedication to the state of Alabama and to humanity is a model for doctors everywhere," said Governor Bob Riley.
"I am confident that the American people will benefit from her knowledge, skills, and commitment to improving the public's health and wellness," added Senator Jeff Sessions.
Governor Riley has previously appointed Dr. Benjamin to serve on the Alabama Rural Action Commission, the Black Belt Action Commission, and the Governor's Commission on Efficiency, Consolidation, and Funding.
Dr. Benjamin also won the 2003 National Governors Association Distinguished Service Award to State Government.