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Dr. Regina Benjamin Receives MacArthur Foundation Genius Award

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation chose Dr. Regina M. Benjamin as one of twenty-five recipients of their $500,000 “genius awards.” The award, as described in The New York Times, goes to individuals “who are singled out for their creativity and their potential for making important future contributions.” Author Frye Gaillard wrote about Dr. Benjamin in his essay included in American Crisis, Southern Solutions, and he sent this statement regarding Dr. Benjamin’s award:

I was delighted to hear that Dr. Regina Benjamin of Bayou La Batre, Alabama has been named one of 25 MacAuthur Foundation Fellows for 2008, joining an astronomer, a neurobiologist, an urban farmer and a basketmaker from South Carolina. The $500,000 award, given to people who demonstrate what the foundation calls “exceptional creativity and promise,” will help Dr. Benjamin rebuild her rural health clinic, which was destroyed first by Hurricane Katrina and then again by fire. 

It was my privilege to profile Dr. Benjamin for the NewSouth book American Crisis, Southern Solutions in which a number of writers from our region searched the recent history of the South for lessons that could be of use to the nation. It seemed to me that Dr. Benjamin’s story — and her remarkable commitment to the welfare of her patients (among other things, she paid for their prescriptions after Hurricane Katrina) — offered powerful lessons for the health care industry during a time when so many people can’t afford what it offers.

Benjamin’s reaction to the grant, as reported by the Associated Press, typifies the assumptions of her work. She spoke of the destruction of her clinic and her patients’ reaction just after the storm. One woman, she said, whose family had been devastated by the flooding came by with a donation of seven dollars to help the clinic rebuild.

“If she can find seven dollars,” Benjamin said, “I can figure out the rest. The patients I treat have their own disasters. Hopefully this grant will help them in some way. It will be as much theirs as it is mine.” Such is Dr. Benjamin’s commitment to a small fishing village on the Alabama coast.

Learn more about Dr. Benjamin in American Crisis, Southern Solutions, available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.