Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, Former U.S. Surgeon General
Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders was nominated as the 15th surgeon general by President William Clinton in July 1993, and was sworn in on Sept. 8, 1993, making Elders the first African American woman to hold that post.
During the Senate hearings on her confirmation, Elders said, "I want to change the way we think about health by putting prevention first. I want to be the voice and vision of the poor and powerless. I want to change concern about social problems that affect health into commitment. And I would like to make every child born in America a wanted child."
Today Elders is a distinguished professor of public health at the University of Arkansas School of Public Health and a distinguished professor at the Clinton School of Public Policy. Elders also continues as professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas Medical School.
The eldest of eight children, Elders never saw a physician prior to her first year in college. At the age of 15, she received a scholarship from the United Methodist Church to attend Philander-Smith College in Little Rock, AR. Upon graduation at age 18, she entered the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant, where she received training as a physical therapist.
Elders attended the University of Arkansas Medical School on the G.I. Bill. Following graduation in 1960, she interned at the University of Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis and did a pediatric residency and an endocrinology fellowship at the University of Arkansas Medical Center in Little Rock. Following her fellowship and board certification in 1976, Elders ascended the academic ladder to full professorship. She also holds a master's of science degree in biochemistry.
Elders joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas Medical School as a professor of pediatrics and received board certification as a pediatric endocrinologist in 1978. Based on her studies of growth in children and the treatment of hormone-related illnesses, she has written many articles for medical research publications. She was appointed director of the Arkansas Department of Health in 1987, and was elected president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers during that time.