Our Black History Month woman of distinction today is Jocelyn Elders. As the first African American to be appointed Surgeon General. Elders is a testament to the strength, discipline and perseverance one needs to ascend to the highest levels of medicine.
Born and raised in Schaal, Arkansas, she was the oldest of eight children and grew up in a poor farming family. Elders knew very early on that she wanted to pursue a career in public health and medicine.
She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Philander Smith College in Arkansas. Soon after graduation, she enlisted in the Army and worked as a physical therapist. After her stint in the military, she enrolled at University of Arkansas Medical School where she obtained her M.D.
Over the years, Elders continued to excel in the world of public health and medicine causing her name to be considered for the prestigious position of Surgeon General. President Bill Clinton appointed her to his cabinet in 1993 making her the first African American to be appointed the title.
Elders was fired only a year after her appointment and it was due to tons of controversial statements and viewpoints that put her at odds against the public, the White House and the President.
Even though she came under serious scrutiny for her statements, Elders never once waivered about her viewpoints and beliefs.
We celebrate her bravery, her gumption and her commitment to staying true to herself even through adversity.