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UNMC’s John Benson, M.D. receives 2 national awards for major contributions to medicine

Two prestigious national medical associations have awarded John Benson, M.D., top awards for his contributions in medicine. Dr. Benson is a professor of internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

 


 

For his extraordinary contributions in medical education, academic medicine and quality standards in physicians, Dr. Benson received the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has named an Anniversary Fellowship in honor of Dr. Benson. The fellowship is sponsored by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation.

The Flexner award which was presented by the AAMC during its annual meeting Nov. 6, in Washington, D.C., was established in 1958 to recognize extraordinary individual contributions to medical schools and to the medical education community. The award is named after Abraham Flexner, an American Educator. His Flexner Report, published in 1910, reformed medical education in the United States.

Dr. Benson has influenced many patients by imparting his high standards on medical students. Those same high standards also were used nationally to shape board certification for internal medicine physicians. In a given year, 10,000 physicians apply to earn certification, which demonstrates clinical excellence.

“I’m deeply honored to receive this award. Coming from a family of educators, I have always liked the idea of teaching and its multiplier effect,” Dr. Benson said. “As a gastroenterologist, I could have affected 2,500 patients in my career. When I teach a class of medical students each year, I have an impact on all of their patients.”

Among many accomplishments in his distinguished career, Dr. Benson is known as the modern “father” of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). As the board’s first president, he held the post for 16 years. He helped establish examinations in nephrology, endocrinology, and hematology, among others.

“Important leadership was needed in defining a process that would appropriately recognize legitimate subspecialties,” said ABIM President and CEO Christine Cassel, M.D.

To maintain and advance the standards of quality for certified physicians, Dr. Benson overhauled the existing certification system for internal medicine, Dr. Cassel said, and introduced “groundbreaking recognition of humanism and professionalism as central to the attributes of a certified internist.”

Dr. Benson said it’s a big honor for him to have a fellowship established in his name.

“Both the IOM and ABIM are outstanding organizations and critical to my career,” Dr. Benson said. “I am humbled by this ongoing recognition.”

The fellowship program, created to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the institute’s establishment, enables talented, early career health science scholars to participate in the work of the IOM and to further their careers as future leaders in the field. It comes with a research stipend of $25,000.

In 1991, Dr. Benson, was elected into the IOM of the National Academy of Science, one of the highest honors an academic physician can achieve. Active for 30 years with the ABIM and its first president, Dr. Benson is known for his influence in establishing clinical competencies for certifying physicians practicing internal medicine

His influence in requiring the demonstration of humanistic qualities came after the 1960s and ‘70s when some felt that medicine was too focused on technology.

“There was a big focus on testing and imaging rather than talking to patients and listening,” Dr. Benson said. “We wanted to get physicians to demonstrate personal integrity, respect for patients and one another, and compassion. I hope it turned things around a bit.”

John Gollan, M.D., Ph.D., former dean of the UNMC College of Medicine, calls Dr. Benson the epitome of an academic physician. “He’s a skilled researcher, a dedicated educator, a brilliant diagnostician and clinician, and a passionate servant who continually seeks to improve his profession and the common good.”

Beginning his career on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Benson later spent 18 years at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) where he was named dean emeritus. He was the first full-time head of gastroenterology, building the division of the department of medicine to include a research lab and full-time faculty and later acting as interim dean for two years.

Dr. Benson, who joined UNMC in 2003, led UNMC’s reaccreditation process in 2006. He served as co-chair of the Nebraska Medical Association Health Care Reform Task Force. He also chairs UNMC’s Health Care Reform Committee, providing UNMC with objective analyses of the impact of the 2010 health care reform legislation.

A native of Connecticut, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and a doctor of medicine from Harvard Medical School. He completed residency and fellowship training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Mayo Clinic and Foundation.

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