I became an orthopaedic surgeon because...

…of my uncle Mark. He is 14 years older than me and when I was in high school, he was going through his residency and cardiology fellowship. My dad had encouraged me to be a doctor since I was a small boy, but I never really considered what type of doctor I should become. It was my uncle Mark who directed me towards orthopaedic surgery. We grew up side by side in the same house in southeast Evanston, so he knew my personality, and he had also just finished going through all his cardiology training around the time I had to make up my mind. I remember being very confused in my third year of medical school and having to decide in a few months what medical career path I should follow. My uncle sat down with me and told me orthopaedics was “the path” for me. Although I thought this was strange advice from a cardiologist, he claimed that my good grades in school, hand-eye coordination, and general interest in tinkering with mechanical things were preconditions that would make orthopaedic surgery an ideal career choice. He also pointed out that orthopaedic surgeons make huge improvements in the lives of patients and that I would find the work to be both engaging and fulfilling. My uncle Mark was right on all counts…

What is the most rewarding part of being an orthopaedic surgeon?

Improving the quality of a patient’s life makes me feel happy. In my residency, we were taught that the top three things to focus upon in treating a patient is pain relief, improvement of function, and improving appearance (i.e. straightening a crooked arm). Achieving any (or all) of these goals is the “secret sauce” in making me feel that my job is personally rewarding. Helping someone with their health creates a sense of satisfaction so powerful that it is hard to describe. I feel lucky and privileged to work in a medical specialty that often has the potential to make the lives of our patients (and their families) better. If you move better, you live better!

What do you like to do in your free time?

While many of my “free time” activities are related to orthopaedic surgery, there are a few things that I do in the non-medical world. My favorite thing by far is spending time with my wife and two daughters on our family vacations. We have been to a ton of national parks in the United States and also like to explore new cities. I have become an amateur photographer along the way and have connected this hobby to my interest in computers. In the past eight years, our family has been the proud owner of two Portuguese Water Dogs. I have been engaged in all aspects of their training and our two pups, Chelsea and Cooper, are full fledged members of the Benson family. One of my favorite things to do with them is to play in the sport of dog agility, which is a game of running a timed obstacle course with your canine partner.

In what volunteer activities or efforts do you engage that mean the most to you and those you serve?

Working with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons on their yearly Public Service Announcement campaigns is one of the most satisfying volunteer activities for me. The Academy staff are incredibly talented and the creative work is fun and engaging. Another Academy project that is hugely satisfying is the Academy’s the annual Safe and Accessible Playground build, in which orthopaedic surgeon volunteers build an entire playground in an underserved, inner-city community. The appreciation shown by the children and their families is priceless. I also enjoy volunteering as an editor for an orthopaedic journal and as a question-writer for the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. In the non-medical world, I have participated with my older dog Chelsea in volunteer work as a therapy-dog team, and have learned much humility in the process—my patients love seeing Chelsea more than listening to anything I have to say!

Read the feature article in the Highland Park News about why Dr. Benson became an orthopaedic surgeon, and how he and his dog, Chelsea, helped patient Ned Bryant back to mobility.