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Picture of M. Joycelyn Elders, M.D.
M. Joycelyn Elders, M.D.: Biography

As U.S. surgeon general, M. Joycelyn Elders, M.D., held one of the most visible offices in government from which to advocate healthy behaviors. Nominated as a surgeon general by President Clinton in 1993, she was the first African American and only the second woman to hold this prestigious position. Dr. Elders was responsible for the Public Health Service Offices of Population Affairs, Minority Health, Women's Health and the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Before this appointment, Dr. Elders had been director of the Arkansas Department of Health.

A native of Schall, Arkansas, Dr. Elders is the oldest of eight children. She never saw a physician prior to her first year of college. At the age of 15 she received a scholarship from the United Methodist Church to attend Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. Upon graduation at age 18, she entered the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant and received training as a physical therapist. She later attended the University of Arkansas Medical School on the G.I. Bill. After graduation in 1960, she worked as an intern at its medical center in Little Rock. Upon completion of her pediatric residency, she obtained a master of science degree in biochemistry. In 1976, she joined the faculty as a professor of pediatrics and received board certification as a pediatric endocrinologist in 1978. Based on her studies of growth in children and the treatment of hormone-related illnesses, she has written more than 150 articles for medical research publications.

As a provider in many of the programs supported by the Public Health Service, Dr. Elders has hands-on experience as a physician in the public health clinic and at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine.

Dr. Elders was elected president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers in August 1992. She has been active in civic affairs as a member of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, Northside YMCA and Youth Homes. She was listed in 100 Outstanding Women in Arkansas, Personalities of the South, and Distinguished Women in America. She has won awards such as the Arkansas Democrats Woman of the Year, the National Governors Association Distinguished Service Award, the American Medical Association's Dr. Nathan Davis Award, the Dr. Lee Humanitarian Award, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women's Candace Award for Health Science.

Dr. Elders has received numerous honorary doctorates from Morehouse College, the University of Minnesota, Yale University, Philander Smith College and Connecticut College, among others. She is married and has two sons, Eric and Kevin.

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