Mike Stobbe, AP
The new U.S. Surgeon General has called for increased efforts in growing the number of minority physicians.
In one of her first speeches to a large crowd since she was sworn in Nov. 3, Dr. Regina Benjamin noted that only six percent of U.S. physicians are minorities — the same as it was a century ago. “There's something wrong with that,” said Benjamin, speaking at a conference on health disparities at a hotel in downtown Atlanta.
The numbers come from a 2004 estimate. Proportionately, black and Hispanic Americans account for roughly 28 percent of the U.S. population. In a 27-minute speech, Benjamin told health leaders in the audience to encourage young minorities to pursue careers in medicine.
Benjamin, 53, is widely respected for being the founder and savior of a rural clinic in Bayou La Batre, AL that was wiped out three times by fire and hurricane. She also was the first black woman to head a state medical society. Last year both the Institute of Medicine and Trust for America's Health called for the surgeon general to play a more prominent and powerful role.