Dr. Joycelyn Elders broke racial and gender barriers as the first African American woman to hold the position of Surgeon General.
Dr. Joycelyn Elders is the first Black person and only the second woman to hold the position of the Surgeon General of the United States. During her tenure, she advocated for universal health coverage, comprehensive health education, including sex education in schools. Sadly, Dr. Elders was asked to resign over a then-controversial statement regarding sex education in schools, only holding the position of Surgeon General for 15 months. However, this does not take away from her considerable accomplishments.
Dr. Elders was the first person in the state of Arkansas to become a board-certified pediatric endocrinologist. She conducted extensive research on diabetes in youth. She worked tirelessly on issues related to teen pregnancy and congenital abnormalities. Dr. Elders’ accomplishments include her extensive work addressing minority health issues, particularly when she was appointed by then-Governor Bill Clinton as head of the Arkansas Department of Health. Currently, Dr. Elders is a professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.