The American Public Health Association praised Benjamin's work on Wednesday, calling her a "remarkable advocate" in advancing prevention as a national health priority. As surgeon general, Benjamin has overseen the operations of the 6,000-member Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Service.
In a statement Wednesday, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the APHA, said Dr. Regina Benjamin taught the country "how to walk again," as she oversaw the "Every Body Walk" campaign that urged Americans to walk for 30 minutes a day, five days per week, to promote health and prevent disease. The APHA's Benjamin also said Dr. Regina Benjamin continued the tradition of previous surgeons general in advocating for reduced tobacco use, referring to two reports that were released during her tenure, including one about how tobacco smoke causes disease and another about preventing tobacco use among the nation's youth.
"She forged the way as leader of the National Prevention Council, created under the Affordable Care Act, to help transform our nation's health system from one that focuses on treating disease to one that focuses on prevention and staying well," Dr. Georges Benjamin said in his statement.
A graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana, Regina Benjamin later earned her medical degree at the University of Alabama in Birmingham after having spent two years at the Morehouse School of Medicine. When President Barack Obama appointed her nearly four years ago, he praised Benjamin's work at the Bayou La Batre (Ala.) Rural Health Clinic, which she opened in the late 1980s to serve the impoverished patient population in the rural village of about 2,500 residents.
Benjamin’s last day will be July 16, according to Salcido, who added that the 56-year-old Benjamin will return to Alabama to volunteer at her clinic. “When Dr. Benjamin departs in July, Deputy Surgeon General Boris Lushniak will serve as acting surgeon general while a search is underway for a new surgeon general,” Salcido said in an email.