Nominee Outlines Nation's Needs, Her Own Priorities

For Dr. Joycelyn Elders, it all boils down to courage.

"One person with courage makes the majority," says Elders. "Don't ever forget that."

Elders, President Clinton's nominee for Surgeon General, said in an interview Saturday that her top three priorities when she assumes office will be teen pregnancy, early childhood education, and primary preventative health care.

"My first priority is to make every child born in America a planned and wanted child," she said. "And I feel education is the most powerful weapon we've got."

"We've got to start early," she said, "and we've got to educate parents. If we don't educate, everything else becomes very moot."

Among other policies, she said she would fight for full funding of Head-start, a government education program for underprivileged children.

Primary preventative health care was also at the top of Elder's "hit list." Part of the problem, she says, is the high variability of health care quality. "Insurance does not mean equal care," she said.

Elders, a pediatric endocrinologist who is currently finishing her term as director of the Arkansas Department of Health, received her medical degree from the University of Arkansas.

In achieving her health goals, Elders emphasized the need for commitment and persistence. "When you're wrestling with the bear, you have to wait for the bear to get tired," she said.

Elders encouraged students to be persistent in contacting legislatures and school boards to push for changes. Students should be a "nuisance factor," said Elders. "If you don't ask questions, then nothing will get done."