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Surgeon General Regina Benjamin didn’t always know she wanted to be a doctor.

“I’d never seen a black doctor until I was in college,” Benjamin recalls. “I didn’t think I couldn’t be a doctor, I was just never exposed so I just never thought about it. Until I went to Xavier University in New Orleans and I joined the pre-med club. Xavier has the highest rate of getting minorities into medical school. While 25% of the nation’s population is minority, less than 7% are physicians. We really need more minority health professionals. Everywhere I go to speak, I try to encourage young people to consider health careers.”

As surgeon general, Benjamin’s primary goal for the American public is prevention.

“The hardest thing that I’ve found is that I don’t see patients everyday, and I miss seeing patients,” she says. “However, now I have an office in Washington and I have over 300 million Americans as my patients.”

More on the NAACP Image Awards:
Tentpoles all in one color? | President’s Award: Colin Powell | Chairman’s Award: Dr. Regina Benjamin