Benjamin to step down as U.S. surgeon general
The Obama administration lost another one of its top healthcare officials last week just as HHS prepares to kick implementation of the 2010 healthcare reform law into high gear. A little more than a week after it was revealed that Dr. Rick Gilfillan will leave his job this month as director of the CMS Innovation Center, an HHS spokeswoman confirmed that U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin will step down from her post next month. Benjamin, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in July 2009, was not available for an interview. “The surgeon general has indicated that she’s going to spend some time this summer volunteering at her clinic in Alabama, allowing her to get back in touch with her patients that she has greatly missed,” HHS spokeswoman Dori Salcido said in an e-mail. Benjamin opened the Bayou Le Batre Rural Health Clinic in the 1980s. Deputy Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak, 53, will serve as acting surgeon general after Benjamin, 56, leaves July 16 and a search begins for her successor. Jeffrey Levi, executive director at the Trust for America’s Health, has worked with Benjamin on the National Prevention Council, a panel established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Levi said Benjamin has framed policy solutions at a population level and managed to address those solutions through the prism of her patient population in Alabama. “She’s an incredibly committed clinician who has taken that clinical experience and drawn from it a recognition that if we don’t think about what happens outside the clinic, we will never be able to address some of the most pressing needs inside the clinic, especially racial and ethnic minorities and those who are underserved,” Levi said.
— Jessica Zigmond
Benjamin’s last day is July 16.