The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Immediate

(Editors note: Joycelyn Elders will hold a media question-and-answer session at 4 p.m., Aug. 25, in the North Room of the IMU. The North Room is just outside the Main Lounge.)

Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders to speak at UI during "Weeks of Welcome"

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Former U.S. Surgeon General M. Joycelyn Elders will speak at the University of Iowa Aug. 25 in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union at 7:30 p.m. Her lecture, "Education: The Key to a Healthy America," is sponsored by the University Lecture Committee and is part of WOW '98, or UI "Weeks of Welcome," a series of events for new and returning UI students.

After her lecture Elders will hold a question-and-answer session with the audience and will then sign copies of her book, Joycelyn Elders: From Sharecroppers Daughter to Surgeon General of the United States.

Elders' medical training began in the U.S. Army, which she entered as a first lieutenant after her graduation from Philanderer-Smith College in 1945. During her service she received training as a physical therapist, and after she left the Army, she attended the University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS) on the G.I. Bill. Elders received board certification in pediatric endocrinology in 1978 and joined the UAMS faculty as a professor of pediatrics.

She was appointed director of the Arkansas Department of Health in October 1987. Then in 1993, Elders, who grew up in an Arkansas sharecropper family and never saw a physician until her first year of college, became the first woman and the first African-American appointed U.S. Surgeon General.

Her tenure on President Clinton's cabinet was marked by controversy, beginning with her Senate confirmation hearings, during which she was questioned extensively about her views on sex education, condom distribution, and abortion. As director of the Arkansas Department of Health, she had supported the distribution of condoms to teenagers to help reduce teen pregnancy and AIDS. She also had been a vocal pro-choice advocate and supported medical uses of marijuana. After lengthy debate the Senate confirmed her appointment to Surgeon General in September 1993.

As Surgeon General she continued to speak out on contentious topics, suggesting legalization of drugs as a viable solution to drug violence, supporting broad sex education in schools, and issuing various controversial statements about guns, homosexuality, and other issues. But the height of controversy surrounding Elders occurred during 1994 World AIDS Day at the United Nations when she suggested that masturbation should be encouraged as a way to prevent teenagers from engaging in other sexual activities. The next day President Clinton asked for and received her resignation, although Elders maintained her stand on the issues and said she did not regret speaking out.

After leaving the Surgeon General post, Elders returned to the faculty at the University of Arkansas Medical School, where she still teaches. She has been listed in 100 Outstanding Women in Arkansas, Personalities of the South, and Distinguished Women in America. She has also won numerous awards including the Arkansas Democrats' Woman of the Year, the National Governors' Association Distinguished Service Award, the American Medical Association's Dr. Nathan Davis Award, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women's Candace Award for Health Science.

Until students return to campus, Kelly Soukup, Lecture Committee adviser, will answer questions about the lecture. He can be reached at (319) 335-3059. The Lecture Committee chairman for 1998-99 is Trinity Ray. The committee's office phone number is (319) 335-3255.