Memorial Heroes: Stephanie Benson, MD


January 22, 2021

What is your official title?

I am a faculty family physician and an assistant program director at the Southern NM Family Medicine Residency Program here at MMC. I am also the medical director of the MMC Palliative Care Team.

How long have you worked here at Memorial Medical Center?

I have been at MMC for over 13 years.

How did you come into this position?

I first came to MMC as a resident in 2007 and started as a faculty member just after graduation in 2009. I have been faculty ever since then. Sometime in 2015 or 2016, I joined the initiative already in progress to start a palliative care program and in December of 2017 we launched our inpatient consult team. Initially it was just me, our clinical pharmacist, Traci White, and our chaplain, Margaret Short. At this point we have added an outpatient palliative care clinic and have a nurse practitioner, Sarah Summers-Barrio, and a social worker, Mendy Fowler, helping us as well.

What was your motivation for a career in healthcare?

I am one of those people that wanted to go into medicine for as long as I can remember. I grew up in rural Appalachia, the daughter of carpenter. I was the first from my family to graduate college, but my parents always encouraged me to work hard in school to succeed. I was also very blessed to have a few key teachers along the way that invested in my life and helped me see my potential.

What is a typical day like for you?

A typical day can be variable. Because I still practice full scope family medicine, I do a variety of things including inpatient care, outpatient care, obstetrics, and pediatrics in addition to my palliative care role. Sometimes I am in my office seeing patients or rounding in the hospital. Other days, and many since COVID, I am primarily doing palliative care. Usually, it is a good bit of running back and forth with many long days recently. More than once I have delivered a baby and held the hand of the dying in the same day. I consider it an amazing privilege to get to serve people in so many important ways.

How would you describe your role’s responsibilities?

I have direct patient care responsibilities in all the areas I described above. In addition, I have administrative roles for our palliative care team, our outpatient primary care clinic, and our residency program. One of my primary responsibilities, other than patient care, is to provide medical education and mentorship to our residents. I love teaching and get a great deal of joy from educating our residents.

In what areas do you help patients?

Hopefully, several. Specific to palliative care, our primary goal is to relieve suffering for patients with serious medical conditions as well as for their families. Sometimes that is through treatment of symptoms and relief of physical suffering. Other times it is through psychological, family and spiritual support to treat social, mental and existential suffering. We do a great deal of talking to people, listening to their concerns, and then helping them make decisions that are consistent with their stated values.

What are some of your interests outside of work?

I love anything outside for the most part. I enjoy kayaking, swimming, hiking, and cycling. I am a big musical theater nerd. I love fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction books and movies.

What is your favorite part about working for Memorial Medical Center?

All the amazing, wonderful people that work here. The faculty, residents and staff of our office and residency program are all wonderful people. The other members of my palliative care team are rock stars. Without a doubt, MMC has the best nursing staff around. I am blessed to be surrounded by so many caring people who are passionate about what we do. I could not do any of it without all of them at my side.