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M. Joycelyn  Elders

M. Joycelyn Elders

The 15th Surgeon General of the United States

M. Joycelyn Elders

The 15th Surgeon General of the United States


M. Joycelyn Elders, M.D. is the 15th Surgeon General of the United States. She is Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital of Little Rock. She is a Distinguished Professor of The School of Public Health at (UAMS) University of Arkansas Medical Sciences. There is a chair in her name in “Sexuality Education in Medical Schools” at the University of Minnesota.

Raised in Schaal, Arkansas, Dr. Elders is the oldest of eight children. In her journey to becoming a doctor she attended Philander Smith College at 15, she entered the Army at 18 and received training to become a physical therapist.

Dr. Elders attended the University of Arkansas Medical School on the G.I. Bill. After graduation in 1960, she interned at the University of Minnesota hospital in Minneapolis. She later returned to Arkansas to UAMS for residency on pediatric endocrinology where she completed her board certification in 1976. She also holds a Master of Science degree in biochemistry. In 1978 she joined the UAMS faculty as a professor of pediatrics specializing in endocrinologist.

Dr. Elders was appointed Director of the Arkansas Department of Health in October of 1987. While serving as director, she was elected President of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers. This is where she would work closely with then, Arkansas Governor William Clinton.

In July 1993, she was nominated by President Clinton to become the 15th Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service. Dr. Elders held this position till January 1995. She returned to Arkansas shortly after her service and continued teaching. As she published many articles on Health Disparities, Public Health Policy and Sexual Health, she became a national profound speaker for these topics. Today, she continues to travel to deliver educational presentations on these topics and many more.

Dr. Elders has also received multiple honorary doctor of medical sciences degrees and honorary doctorate of letters degrees. Dr. Elders also serves on multiple boards and commissions. A few to be mentioned are: Greenhouse Project, Arkansas Children’s and UAMS, National Center for Healthy Housing, and Institute of Sexual Health.

Today in her spare time she is a devoted wife to Oliver Elders (63 years) and mother to their two children Kevin and Eric. She enjoys sitting and looking out the window and reaping the fruits of her lifelong labor.

Speaker Videos

Healthcare: The Sickcare System

Speech Topics

Education: A Key to a Healthy America

Former US Surgeon General Dr. Elders is an outspoken advocate for quality health education programs in America's public schools. She believes that the United States cannot have a healthy population unless it has an educated population, and that of paramount concern is providing a good foundation for healthy living with comprehensive health education.

Dr. Elders stresses the importance of teaching children from the earliest grades about unhealthy and risky behaviors, and emphasizes the importance of presenting children with a factual curriculum that is accurate and age appropriate. She believes that healthcare access in itself isn't enough without education that teaches children about unhealthy patterns of living such as tobacco use, drug and alcohol abuse, unsafe sex and poor eating habits. With alarming new reports emerging every day about the growing obesity problem among America's children, she urges public schools to act more responsibly in providing nutritious snacks, and to teach children how to make healthy choices.

The Politics of Healthcare

Health Care in the 21st Century

Health Care Issues in the Minority Community

Women's Reproductive Rights

Health Education in Public Schools

Health Education and Sexual Education