Elders, M. Joycelyn

Elders, M. (Minnie) Joycelyn

(1933–  ) pediatric endocrinologist, U.S. Surgeon General; born in Schaal, Ark. Born of an impoverished family, the eldest of eight children, she attended Philander Smith College, joined the army in 1952, and became a certified physical therapist. She attended medical school at the University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS), Little Rock, (1954–60), and interned and was a resident at the University of Minnesota. Teaching at UAMS in 1964, she became a pediatrics professor by 1976, and a certified pediatric endocrinologist in 1978. In 1987 she became director of the Arkansas Department of Health, a post she held until 1993 when President Clinton appointed her United States Surgeon General, the first African-American in that post. Her confirmation was delayed because many senators objected to her outspoken advocacy on such matters as abortion, AIDS, and sex education, and her tenure proved to be short. After the Republicans gained a majority in Congress in 1994, she resigned under pressure following criticism of her response to a question in a public forum about masturbation.