Posted on 29. Jul, 2009 by admin in Uncategorized
by Shanita Bigelow
If confirmed, Dr. Regina Benjamin, a rural physician and 2008 recipient of the MacArthur “genius” grant, will become the third African American and the third woman to hold the position of U.S. Surgeon General. On Monday, President Barack Obama selected Benjamin to be the nation’s leading spokesperson on public health.
Benjamin is the result of hard work, dedication and a strong determination. “She is an example. This is a message for young people, a message to those who are wondering what they want to
be or do,” said Dr. Norman Francis, president of Xavier University of Louisiana where Benjamin earned her bachelor’s degree.
Xavier, a small, Catholic, historically black university was founded by St. Katherine Drexel, who went to New Orleans on a mission. Determined to aid in the education of African Americans, she founded Xavier University in the 1920’s.
“[Katherine Drexel] came to New Orleans to fill the need. Regina did the same thing. She went to Bayou La Batre to fill the need for healthcare,” Francis continued. This is also a message to parents: “The best contribution they can make to the lives of their children is to invest in quality education,” Francis stated. Benjamin, the first African American woman to be president of a state medical association, served as president of the State of Alabama Medical Association from 2002-2003. She also served as chair of the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs and as a member of the AMA’s Board of Trustees. She was the first physician under 40 as well as the first African American woman board member. She also has a long list of honors and distinctions that qualify her for the job.
In 1990, she founded Bayou La Batre Health Clinic in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. The clinic serves Bayou La Batre’s diverse population of “whites, blacks and Asians” (about 2,500) people who “work for themselves, scrape by, and can’t usually afford health insurance,” said President Obama during his announcement on Monday, July 13.
“When people couldn’t pay, she didn’t charge them. When the clinic wasn’t making money, she didn’t take a salary for herself. When Hurricane George destroyed the clinic in 1998, she made house calls to all her patients while it was rebuilt. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed it again and left most of her town homeless, she mortgaged her house and maxed out her credit cards to rebuild that clinic for a second time. She tended to those who had been wounded in the storm, and when folks needed medicine, she asked the pharmacist to send the bill her way,” Obama added.
As healthcare reform weighs heavy on the minds of all Americans, President Obama asserted, “[t]he status quo on health care is no longer an option for the United States of America. Dr. Benjamin will be a part of this proposed change.”
“Public health issues are very personal to me. My father died with diabetes and hypertension. My older brother, and only sibling, died at age 44 of HIV-related illness. My mother died of lung
cancer, because as a young girl, she wanted to smoke just like her twin brother could. My Uncle Buddy, my mother’s twin, who’s one of the few surviving black World War II prisoners of war, is
at home right now, on oxygen, struggling for each breath because of the years of smoking,” said Benjamin at the President’s announcement on Monday.
“My family is not here with me today, at least not in person, because of preventable diseases. While I can’t…change my family’s past, I can be a voice in the movement to improve our nation’s health care and our nation’s health for the future,” Benjamin continued.
“African Americans make up a little over 13 percent of the population, but have a disproportionately higher rate of obesity and chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes. With the nomination of Dr. Benjamin, there is a renewed sense hope for the American people as the voice of America’s public health comes from someone who “represents what’s best about health care in America – doctors and nurses who give and care and sacrifice for the sake of their patients…,” Obama said.
by Lesley R. Chinn
After vetoing the General Assembly’s budget because it failed to make significant cuts in state operations, Gov. Pat Quinn announced his proposal to pass a responsible “Tough Choices” budget on Tuesday calling for an additional $1 billion in state cuts.
Out of this $1 billion in cuts, the Governor proposed $185 million in cuts from state operations, including a projected 2,600 layoffs and 12 furlough days for state employees.
Other cuts include $140 million from Medicaid and health insurance; $250 million in targeted reductions in grant programs, $125 million from the Department of Corrections; $175 million from proposed increases for K-12 education; $25 million from other state offices, (departments not under the Governor) and $100 million in additional reserves.
Quinn criticized the General Assembly’s previous budget saying that it appropriates $3.8 billion to fund state operations. He also said that it fails to adequately cut the cost of state operations, including the budget of the General Assembly, Treasurer, Comptroller, and Secretary of State.
“It does not reflect the spirit of shared sacrifice that must prevail throughout our state government, particularly during these harsh economic times,” Quinn said in a statement. “When it comes to making cuts, we have to make tough choices, not bad choices.”
The 50 percent budget that Quinn vetoed also would have created a $9.2 billion funding gap and forced cuts to social services and would have resulted in more than 100,000 job cuts statewide. On July 14, the General Assembly is scheduled to return to Springfield for continued budget discussions.
While Quinn did not return phone calls to discuss why he vetoed the General Assembly’s budget, a statement released on his website prior to Tuesday’s announcement stated that he would not accept, “a partial budget that fails to meet the fundamental needs of the people of Illinois.”
For the past three years, the state has gone into overtime in trying to pass a budget. “I would love to have a summer [vacation] but I have to go back down to Springfield to give this another try,” said State Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-5). Hendon said Quinn, who wants to raise taxes, is being met with the same criticism that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich faced when he refused a tax hike. “Every
time [Quinn] makes a compromise, he’s being called a flip-flopper, but every time he wants to fight, then he’s just like [Rod Blagojevich]. He’s caught in a catch-22,” Hendon said.
While the budget remains in crisis mode, Hendon added, “We need to fund these programs so these people will not have to suffer. The economy is down and everybody understands that. This is a national phenomenon. So let’s step up to the plate,” he continued. State Sen. Dale Righter (R-55) chimed in saying that human service providers and families, who depend on state funding, shouldn’t have to wait until the 14th to decide whether or not they will be able to access services. He finds it “wildly irresponsible” for politicians to worry about taking a vacation while those affected
by the budget are being left to “twist in the wind.”
State Sen. Bill Brady (R-44) said the budget crisis could have been resolved earlier but infighting between Gov. Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and Senate President John Cullerton has slowed things down. “Now we’re left with an overtime session with no budget,” Brady stated. He thinks the budget talks will come down to the wire. “I would hope that Quinn would have a plan in place on how he is willing to prioritize the funds that the General Assembly has authorized and make that work for the people of Illinois. If he is going to continue to threaten or holdout for a tax increase, he’s doing a disservice to the people,” Brady said.
If Quinn fails to pass the budget, Brady added the courts could intervene by forcing the state to pass the budget or the government could shut down services. “It shouldn’t happen that way, but we’ll see,” he said.
While State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13) regarded Brady’s comments as nothing but free publicity for his upcoming gubernatorial campaign in 2010, he described Quinn as a “good man” who is “well-intentioned” in wanting to provide for the people of the state of Illinois. “[Quinn] realizes there is a great danger in not generating the necessary revenue to provide the needed services throughout the year,” Raoul stated.
Although Raoul said he supports an income tax hike, he wants state funds to not only go towards social services, but to education and property tax relief. He also added that it shouldn’t be in the form of a two-year tax hike. “It should be a four-year tax hike so that we can make a necessary investment to education. An income tax hike that does not make an investment in our children is unacceptable,” he said.