Joycelyn Elders, M.D.: From Sharecropper's Daughter to Surgeon General of the United States of America

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The oldest of eight children, Joycelyn Elders was born Minnie Lee Jones in the tiny town of Schaal, Arkansas, in 1933. She grew up in a three-room cabin and, at age fifteen, graduated from high school as valedictorian. When she entered Philander Smith College in Little Rock, she had never seen a doctor, let alone dreamed of becoming one. Dr. Elders graduated from the University of Arkansas Medical School and then became its first black resident, its first black chief resident, and finally its first black ...
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1996 Hardcover First Edition New 0688147224. Hardback Autobiographical 1st. Ed. As New/As New; 77398.

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1996 Hard cover First edition. 1st printing New in fine dust jacket. Sewn binding. Paper over boards. 355 p. Audience: General/trade.

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Overview

The oldest of eight children, Joycelyn Elders was born Minnie Lee Jones in the tiny town of Schaal, Arkansas, in 1933. She grew up in a three-room cabin and, at age fifteen, graduated from high school as valedictorian. When she entered Philander Smith College in Little Rock, she had never seen a doctor, let alone dreamed of becoming one. Dr. Elders graduated from the University of Arkansas Medical School and then became its first black resident, its first black chief resident, and finally its first black professor. By the time of the Senate debate on her confirmation as surgeon general in August 1993, Dr. Elders had been a respected pediatric endocrinologist and medical scientist for a quarter of a century, as well as the director of Arkansas's health department under then-governor Clinton. But during Dr. Elders's tenure as surgeon general she came under fire for her controversial positions on such subjects as abortion, sex education, the distribution of condoms, and the legalization of drugs. Her passion and outspokenness enraged Republicans and often upset the Clinton administration. Now, Dr. Elders openly describes the top-level machinations that led the Clinton health insurance reform to self-destruct and eventually resulted in her own dismissal. She writes with equal candor about such intimate personal tragedies as her youngest son's drug addiction and arrest, and about the poisoned political climate in Arkansas, which has affected the lives of so many of the President's friends and appointees.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Elders (b. 1933), a professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas, began life in the rural town of Schaal, Ark., as the oldest of eight children born to a poor sharecropper father and a mother who taught her to read by the time she was five. In candid, gripping prose, Elders describes the segregated world of her youth, then details her career through her appointment as surgeon general. Awarded a scholarship to Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Elders became a physical therapist and joined the army to study medicine. Her work attracted the attention of Governor Bill Clinton, who appointed her director of the Arkansas Health Department and, later, surgeon general of the U.S. Her outspoken advocacy of sex education for teenagers caused controversy, and she was forced to resign. Elders does not blame the president for her resignation, and believes that Clinton's political enemies may have initiated the arrest of her son for selling drugs. Writer Chanoff has collaborated on nine other autobiographies. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Elders, currently a professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas Medical School, was for 15 months the U.S. surgeon general. In this memoir, she recounts her many accomplishments, focusing on her transformation from a poor black girl to a medical scientist. (LJ 9/15/96)
Booknews
The former surgeon general shares her life story, from her childhood in Arkansas to the circumstances surrounding her forced resignation in 1994 and its backlash. She openly discusses top-level machinations that led the Clinton health insurance reform to self-destruct, her youngest son's drug addiction and arrest, and the corrupt political climate in Arkansas. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
Just what one would expect from the no-nonsense Elders: an unvarnished account that tells as much about our society as about her remarkable life.

In collaboration with writer Chanoff (a visiting scholar at Brandeis Univ.), whose labors are happily invisible, Elders tells an inspiring story of a child born to an Arkansas sharecropper in 1933 who 60 years later became the first black woman surgeon general of the US. Family and church instilled in her early a commitment to education and a high moral sense. With a college scholarship, good role models, hard work, the GI Bill, and strong mentors, she rose swiftly. When she became chief resident at the University of Arkansas Medical School in 1963, it was an unheard-of honor for a black woman, and with the help of an NIH fellowship grant in biochemistry, she was soon Arkansas's resident expert in pediatric endocrinology. Elders's story is much more than a brilliant career résumé. She shares details of her personal life—her strong marriage, her husband's deep depression, the loss of a child, and her younger son's problems with cocaine—and her introduction to public life. In 1987, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton asked her to direct the state's health department. With this appointment, Elders—a pragmatist, not a politician—battled "antichoice, antieducation, anticondom fundamentalists" outraged by her plans for distributing condoms in school clinics. Six years later, when Clinton picked the outspoken Elders as his surgeon general, he knew exactly what he was getting. Her account of her brief tenure, only 15 months, is restrained, but it's clear that relations with her boss, Donna Shalala, were rocky, and she blames Shalala and Leon Panetta, not Clinton, for her dismissal after the masturbation flap.

Now back in Arkansas teaching pediatrics, Elders says she has no regrets. She knows who she is and what she stands for. After reading this absorbing autobiography, readers will too.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688147228
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/30/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.41 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.29 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2002

    Report for a book used as a book report for school

    A very good and interesting book.Many details about her life, but if you are trying to find important dates, there are none in here I think

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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