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Regina Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General, Stepping Down

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U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin speaks during an event to unveil the general's report on 'How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease' December 9, 2010 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) | Getty File

WASHINGTON — U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin says she plans to step down next month after four years as "America's doctor."

In an email to staff Wednesday, Benjamin said she will remain involved in public health. As surgeon general, she promoted disease prevention, smoking cessation and healthy lifestyles, particularly among minorities. Benjamin oversaw a report that documented how smoking, even an occasional cigarette or secondhand smoke, can cause immediate damage to the human body.

A native of Alabama, Benjamin is widely respected for founding a rural health clinic in that state, which she kept going although it was wiped out three times by fire and hurricanes. She plans to volunteer seeing patients at the clinic.

Health and Human Services spokeswoman Dori Salcido said the administration is grateful for Benjamin's service.

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