Does HIMSS own the incoming Surgeon General?

HIMSS lobbyist Thomas M. Leary noted that Benjamin's clinic in Alabama received a $5,000 grant from the HIMSS foundation for rebuilding its IT infrastructure as part of the group's Katrina project.

Officials of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) have begun bragging to the media that they have their hooks into Surgeon General nominee Regina Benjamin.

HIMSS lobbyist Thomas M. Leary noted that Benjamin's clinic in Alabama received a $5,000 grant from the HIMSS foundation for rebuilding its IT infrastructure as part of the group's Katrina project.

Benjamin's nomination is based, in part, on her success in rebuilding her small clinic in Alabama following its destruction by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The clinic was also destroyed by Hurricane George in 1998 and, after Katrina, by a fire. Each time it was rebuilt.

Some critics, including former New England Journal of Medicine editor Marcia Angell, have also called Benjamin fat, claiming this "sends the wrong message." None of the critics appears to be the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant.

Benjamin's weight gain, moreover, appears to be fairly recent, and she's 52. Some weight gain during menopause is common, and stress can also lead to weight gain in some people. Losing your clinic twice in four years is stressful. It might be fun to watch Angell lose her life's work twice in that time, then weigh her.

Benjamin herself probably feels bad enough about her weight. She noted in being nominated how many close relatives have died of preventable health causes, including diabetes, and promised to fight them.

The more serious question is whether the fund-raising for her Bayou La Batre clinic may have made her open to charges of conflict of interest regarding issues like CCHIT certification.

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