Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders has always been something of an agitator in public health circles. During her 1990s tenure, she kept a “condom tree” on her government desk. She’s been branded a “rabble rouser” and given the nickname the “condom queen.” And she was famously forced to resign in 1994 for calling masturbation “a part of something that perhaps should be taught,” to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.
Now, two decades later, Elders, 83, has taken up a new mantle: advocating for racial equality in medicine. She is the spokesperson for “Changing the Face of Medicine,” a campaign that aims to increase the percentage of black doctors in the United States. And she is featured in a new documentary the group has released, “Black Women in Medicine,” which details the career trajectories of aspiring and accomplished physicians against a backdrop of historic accomplishments like that of Elders.
This year, the campaign included a tour of schools, community centers, and hospitals aimed at kids as young as 11.