United States Surgeon General Regina Benjamin will be the keynote speaker at the Drexel University College of Medicine’s commencement ceremony May 20 at the Kimmel Center, according to a Drexel press release.
Benjamin will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the College of Medicine during the ceremony. In addition, former United States Senator Arlen Specter will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his work to improve health and biomedical research in the United States, according to the press release.
Julie Krueger, one of the presidents of the College of Medicine’s graduating class, said she was thrilled that Benjamin was named the College’s commencement speaker. Krueger is receiving a Doctor of Medicine degree and plans to enter the pediatrics field.
Krueger said Benjamin is not only a leader, but someone to look up to as well.
“I hope that she really inspires the students to go forward and be leaders from this point on,” Krueger said.
Krueger, who also has a public health degree and a background in public health and preventative medicine, said she was familiar with Benjamin’s work in these fields. She added that she expects Benjamin to discuss the importance of preventative medicine during her speech.
“I think that’s something all graduates should hear,” Krueger said, adding that preventative medicine is currently a major topic in the medical field.
Amber Bird, another president of the College of Medicine’s graduating class, said she was also excited to hear Benjamin will be the College’s commencement speaker. Bird is receiving a Doctor of Medicine degree and plans to enter the internal medicine field.
“Our class is very excited to have [Benjamin] come. A completely positive reaction,” Bird said.
Bird added that “[Benjamin has] had such a positive influence on so many communities.”
Bird said she expects Benjamin will discuss “the importance of being involved in the community no matter what field you go into,” and the need for primary care and preventative care, as well as health care reform.
Benjamin became the 18th surgeon general of the United States in 2009. Her past experience includes her role as founder and former CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Alabama, which helped uninsured residents of the area.
The Bayou La Batre clinic was damaged by Hurricane Georges in 1998 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It also incurred extensive damage in a 2006 fire, according to the clinic’s website. According to Benjamin’s biography, she has used personal funds to pay for expenses at the clinic, and has been recognized for her business skills and approach to preventative medicine. Benjamin has a Masters in Business Administration in addition to her medical degree.
Benjamin has also served as associate dean for rural health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, as well as chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States. She has received numerous honors and awards and occupied many medical leadership positions, according to her biography.
According to Bird, the commencement speaker selection process is run by the College of Medicine’s Office of Student Affairs.
The College of Medicine’s current graduating class is the largest in its history, according to the press release. The commencement will include 443 graduating students, 273 of whom will be receiving a Doctor of Medicine degree. Drexel’s College of Medicine currently has the largest enrollment of any private medical college in the United States.