Dr. Regina Benjamin has been nominated by the president to serve as the next U.S. Surgeon General.
Benjamin is a rural family physician who has faced hurricanes, flood and fire to care for impoverished patients along Alabama's Gulf Coast.
Obama said Dr. Benjamin understands the needs of the poor and uninsured, making her uniquely qualified to be America's doctor as his administration tries to revamp the health care system.
For her part, Benjamin Monday ticked off preventable diseases that have claimed nearly all her relatives, diabetes, high blood pressure, lung cancer.
She pledged to fight so that, in her words, "no one falls through the cracks as we improve our health care system."
Benjamin was the first black woman to head a state medical society, received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights and just last fall received a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant."
But she made headlines in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with her determination to rebuild her rural health clinic Bayou La Batre, Ala., which serves 4,400 patients who would be hard-pressed to find care elsewhere.