April 9, 2010

Good Morning:

U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, a graduate of Tulane University, is one of three remarkable individuals who will receive honorary degrees at our 2010 Unified Commencement.

Dr. Benjamin's life is a story of firsts. She was the first physician under age 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. She was also the first African-American female to serve as president of a state medical society. She was associate dean at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and past chair of the U.S. Federation of State Medical Boards. But it was her work as founder of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic (where she accepted oysters, home-cooked meals or whatever patients could afford as payment) that garnered her national attention and the well-deserved title of "America's doctor."

Geoffrey Canada, another honorary degree recipient, has devoted his career to improving the lives of Harlem's children. He is president and CEO of Harlem Children's Zone which, through parenting workshops, a pre-school program, three charter schools, child-oriented health programs and more, nurtures the academic life of young people in a 100-block area of Harlem. Having seen its success, President Barack Obama has announced plans to replicate the Harlem Children's Zone model in cities across the nation.

Our third honorary degree recipient is Dr. John Ruffin, director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. In this position Dr. Ruffin has developed programs to increase the number of minority scientists, physicians and other health professionals while attracting a diverse group of researchers to study the differences in health among the races. His efforts have brought about change in local, regional, national and international communities. Dr. Ruffin has received numerous honors for his work, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award for National Service and the Samuel L. Kountz Award for increasing minority access to organ and tissue transplantation.

These three lives attest to the difference one life can make and are excellent examples for our graduates and for all of us. I hope you will be present when we honor them.

Have a great weekend,


Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638