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Senate Confirms Alabama Doctor as Surgeon General

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Dr. Regina Benjamin to be the U.S. surgeon general, elevating a well-known Alabama family physician to be the nation's top doctor.

Benjamin, 53, was approved by voice vote.

Benjamin was the first black woman to head a state medical society, received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights and just last fall received a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant."

But she made headlines in the wake of Hurricane Katrina with her determination to rebuild her rural health clinic in Bayou La Batre, Ala., which serves 4,400 patients who would be hard-pressed to find care elsewhere.

In nominating Benjamin, President Obama cited her experience with patients at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum and her commitment to prevention and wellness programs as a way to head off diseases and complications that could be prevented.

"My hope ... is to be America's doctor, America's family physician," Benjamin said when Obama announced her nomination in July. As we work toward a solution to this health care crisis, I promise to communicate directly with the American people to help guide them through whatever changes may come with health care reform."