WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate has formally confirmed Dr. Regina Benjamin to be the U.S. surgeon general, making her only the third African American to hold the position as the nation's top doctor.
The Senate nod came by a voice vote Thursday night, an expression of unanimous consent of both parties.
The 53-year-old family practice doctor had spent most of her career tending to the needs of poor patients in a Gulf Coast clinic she founded two decades ago in Alabama.
She was the first African-American woman board member of the American Medical Association, and she just served a term as chairwoman of the group's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs.
Benjamin received a bachelor's degree in 1979 from Xavier University of Louisiana, attended Morehouse School of Medicine from 1980 to 1982, and received a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1984.
She completed her residency in family practice at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in 1987.
President Barack Obama called Benjamin "a relentless promoter" of programs to fight preventable illness when he nominated her in July.