Alabama reacts to Obama’s surgeon general pick

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

On Monday, President Obama nominated a family doctor from Bayou La Batre, Alabama, to be the next surgeon general of the United States.

She is Dr. Regina Benjamin, the family physician at her own health clinic in the bayou, a clinic that helps serve the needy in the community. It’s a clinic that, through her guidance and determination, has come back after two devastating hurricanes and a fire that leveled a brand new building one day before it opened.

It’s hard to find anyone in Bayou la Batre who doesn’t know Dr. Benjamin or hasn’t been to see her for one reason or another. And in these hard economic times, sometimes payment for her services would be a simple handshake or a pint of oysters.

Even the town’s Mayor Wright gets emotional when he talks about what she means to this town.

“And as soon as the water [from Katrina] left, she had an old 4 wheel drive Toyota pickup truck and she got in that sucker and she throwed her some medical supplies in a bag and she went from door to door of every one of her patients, ” Wright remembers.

Mayor Wright serves on the board of Dr. Benjamin’s clinic. He has become one of her staunchest supporters. So are many residents of this shrimping town, which weathered Katrina only to be shackled by the current economic downturn. Health care is too expensive for most. Dr. Benjamin is among the health care providers in the bayou who fill the gap.

In the bayou, insurmountable challenges are a way of life and a good training ground, says Wright, for a surgeon general.

“She’s been a fine lady, she’s shown leadership, she’s shown kindness, and I think the president has made the best choice that he’s made since he’s been in office.”