In the '60s told us to stop smoking cigarettes. Most in the '80s and '90s have fought AIDS. Joycelyn Elders fought AIDS " and she also fought our fear of drug addicts, which was adding to our problems more than it was solving them. Dr. Elders spoke as an advocate of good health for people who weren't white, and for people who weren't male. She supported men who refused to live the lives of the stereotypical American male. She also promoted the use of condoms.
Joycelyn Elders was born Minnie Lee Jones in Schaal, Arkansas on August 13, 1933. She changed her name to Minnie Joycelyn Lee (later using just Joycelyn). A native of Schall, Arkansas, Dr. Elders is the oldest of eight children. She never saw a physician prior to her first year of college. At the age of 15 she received a scholarship from the United Methodist Church to attend Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. .
In 1952, she received her B.A. in biology from Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. After working as a nurse's aid in a Veterans Administration hospital in Milwaukee for a period, she joined the Army in May, 1953. She spent 3 years in the Army, she was trained as a physical therapist. She then attended the University of Arkansas Medical School, where she obtained her M.D. degree in 1960. After completing an internship at the University of Minnesota Hospital and a residency in pediatrics at the University of Arkansas Medical Center, Elders earned an M.S. in Biochemistry in 1967.
Elders received a National Institutes of Health career development award, also serving as assistant professor in pediatrics at the University of Arkansas Medical Center from 1967.
Dr. Elders is a member of numerous professional organizations and service organization boards. .
In 1987, Elders was appointed Director of the Arkansas Department of Health by then-Governor Bill Clinton. Elders became Surgeon General of the Public Health Service on September 8, 1993, appointed by President Clinton.