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By: Tony Flood   Date: 2/22/11

As Black History Month for 2011 draws to a close, we are reminded of the contributions made by a number of African-Americans over the years.  Contributions in a number of areas – civil and human rights; politics; science and technology.  But did you know there were and continue to be today, a number of talented African-Americans who made great strides in food science, health and medicine.

Take for instance, George Washington Carver – an African-American – who was born into slavery but overcame obstacles to become a recognized scientist, botanist, educator and inventor.  One of his most notable achievements was his untiring research and promotion of sweet potatoes and peanuts – notable alternatives to cotton which was the backbone of Southern economic development during the time.  His research created over 100 house and farm products made from ordinary peanuts. George Washington Carver was a true food scientist ahead of his time.

And then there’s Dr. Regina Benjamin – the new Surgeon General of the United States.  Dr. Benjamin came to become the Nation’s Physician by way of Xavier University, Morehouse School of Medicine, the University of Alabama and the Medical Center of Central Georgia.  She also came to fame by working at the grass roots level in rural health clinics, seeing patients, making house calls all the while taking leadership roles at the American Medical Association.  She is the first African-American woman to hold a national office at AMA and the first individual under the age of 40 to do so as well.

In 2009, President Barack Obama announced Dr. Regina Benjamin as his appointment for Surgeon General of the United States.  Later that year, Dr. Benjamin unanimously confirmed by the US Senate.  Her perspectives on health care, and most importantly accessibility to affordable care continues to play a critical component in her role as Surgeon General. 

I had the distinct honor to travel with Dr. Benjamin on a number of speaking engagements with health professional groups in the past.  Her presence, grace and charm overwhelmed the audience then and even more today as our Nation’s Physician.

There are numerous individuals who have and continue to make strides in food science, health and nutrition.  It is our challenge to be leaders and to make a difference at the national level and in our community now and in years to come.


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