I’m not sure that there are any formal qualifications but per the Wikipedia article, the Surgeon General heads a staff of 6,000. So some sort of management skills would be useful, although perhaps there are permanent employees who handle the day-to-day management. The surgeon general is also a spokesperson on health and medical issues so some public speaking skills would be good.
I am not sure if I fully understand the question. The Surgeon General post is a political position that is more focused public health policy than practicing medicine. I used to work down the hall from C. Everett Koop, the famous retired Surgeon General, at Dartmouth and he did seem like he made a good cheerleader as well as a strong political image. I still wouldn’t have picked him to be my personal doctor though even if there was such an opportunity possible.
I have no opinion of the Dr. in question because I don’t know much about her but she could be great for the job especially because she has worked in lots of poor, rural areas in the South that have always had problems with politicians understanding their health care issues.
Someone else pointed out that DBenjamin was 50 years old (she’s actually 52)… the exact same age as Richard Carmona was when President Bush nominated him as the previous Surgeon General. His predecessor (David Satcher) was 47 when nominated. 52 is probably older than the historical median. C. Everett Koop was 65 when nominated by president Reagan in 1982, but that was an unusual exception. Nixon nominated a 42 year old. LBJ’s nominee was 44.
Besides, a doctor with fifty years of experience would be close to 80 years old.
A roughly comparable position is the head of the FDA. David Kessler became head of the FDA at the age of 39. Because he was so young, he was sometimes jokingly referred to as “Doogie Kessler, M.D.” He was very popular in the position and was appointed by the first Bush and then reappointed by Clinton: