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Meet Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the 1st African American Appointed as Surgeon General of the United States

On this day September 7, 1993: Dr. Joycelyn Elders is confirmed as the surgeon general of the United States.

Dr. Minnie Joycelyn Elders is an American pediatrician and public health administrator. She was a vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the first African American appointed as Surgeon General of the United States.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders

(AP Photo/Lennox Mclendon)
Elders was the 16th surgeon general of the United States, making her the 1st African American and the 2nd female to head the U.S. Public Health Service.


During her 15 months as surgeon general, Elders added tobacco use, national health care, and drug and alcohol abuse to her list of major concerns.

Born into a Depression-era family of 10, all crammed in a three-room cabin in the Arkansas backwoods, she conquered poverty and bias and became not just a noted black physician, but the top state health officer under Gov. Bill Clinton.

Elders is best known for her frank discussion of her views on controversial issues such as drug legalization and distributing contraception in schools. She was fired in December 1994 amidst controversy as a result of her views. She is currently a professor emerita of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.



Written by PH

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