The new U.S. surgeon general on Thursday called for stepped-up efforts to increase the number of minority physicians.

Dr. Regina Benjamin noted that the proportion of U.S. physicians who are minorities is only 6 percent — the same as a century ago.

The 53-year-old Benjamin was speaking at a conference on health disparities in downtown Atlanta. She told health leaders to encourage young minorities to pursue careers in medicine and other ambitions.

The Alabama physician was nominated by President Barack Obama in July and was sworn in Nov. 3.

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On the Net:

The Surgeon General's Web site: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov