Driven to Heal

Finding Ministry in the Practice of Medicine

What started as a normal Monday evening at home in Durham, North Carolina quickly changed for Dr. Richard Benson, II, Medical Director of emergency medicine services at Maria Parham Health.

Around six o’clock on Sept. 14, 2020, the sounds of excitement and cheer filled the streets of the Lyon Park neighborhood. At the local park, families lined fences to watch a youth baseball game as siblings and other children played nearby. Across the street from the park, Dr. Benson sat in his front yard with his daughter and son enjoying the game as well.

Suddenly, the sound of nearly 15 gunshots popped through the neighborhood. Dr. Benson rushed inside with his children to find his wife. After his family was tucked away safely in their home, he walked outside to see if anyone was hurt and to his surprise, the street was somewhat quiet.

He moved to the backyard and saw neighbors gathering down the street. Cries and screams filled the air and one neighbor shouted several people needed medical attention. Instinct kicked in and Dr. Benson ran inside and grabbed his keys.

Each Minute Counts

At the scene, he found two men lying in the street and several others surrounding them. Both men confirmed they were struck by gunfire. Without hesitation, he instructed the two men to get into his vehicle so he could drive them to Duke University Medical Center. A brother of one of the GSW victims offered to accompany Dr. Benson to the hospital.

“As emergency physicians, we know there is a golden hour for traumatic injuries where each minute counts up to that 60-minute mark. If we are going to make the biggest impact and potentially save someone’s life, it’s done very early on,” said Dr. Benson. “There wasn’t much I could do onsite with no medical supplies. I knew the best thing to do was to get them in front of a surgeon and personally driving the victims was the fastest option at the time.”

Halfway to Duke, they a saw car that appeared to have run off the road. As they got closer, the men noticed a heavy-set male hanging outside of the vehicle. Recognizing the young neighbor from his street, Dr. Benson pulled over, and as they approached the third victim, Dr. Benson saw two gunshot wounds to his head and neck. The driver of the car was trying to get a third victim to the hospital but unfortunately lost control of the vehicle.

Several drivers stopped when they noticed Dr. Benson needed help moving the victim. Nearly eight men lifted the individual into the back seat of Dr. Benson’s Toyota Rav-4 and the first two victims hopped in the trunk. The uninjured passenger focused his attention on encouraging the critically injured man to stay positive and hang in there as they got back on the road.

Coming in Hot

“I quickly searched for the Duke emergency department phone number and asked to be transferred to the charge nurse,” recalled Dr. Benson. “I let the nurse know I was coming in hot with three gunshot wound victims, one who was critically ill and a difficult transport.”

When they arrived at the Duke ED, security had the ambulance bay secured and a number of team members waited outside. Immediately, the most severe victim was loaded up, intubated and rushed to the OR.

A Ministry

“For me, being a physician is a true calling to serve and a ministry. And to that point, to God be the glory. As a medical provider and a healer, I feel there is a moral responsibility for me to always do what is best for people. If I would have done nothing, I wouldn’t have been in direct harm, but I certainly didn’t help,” explained Dr. Benson. “I had the knowledge and expertise to know what these men needed, so I did what I knew was best.”

Dr. Benson’s actions saved three lives that day. The first two victims recovered quickly from their injuries and were discharged within a few days. The third, most critical victim received care in the ICU and is in long-term rehab.

“When I look at these young men, I see myself and my son. I hope if my son were to ever need help, someone would stop and help him just as I did,” said Dr. Benson. “I moved into this neighborhood to have a positive effect on the community. This day was one time where I left like I might have actually saved somebody or helped save a life. I think that’s something coming from an emergency medicine provider.”

Dr. Richard Benson, II

Dr. Richard Benson, II joined ApolloMD in 2017 and quickly made a splash as a young leader. This year he was named Emergency Medicine Medical Director of the Year during the ApolloMD Virtual Leadership Conference.

“There are few people I can think to describe as ‘all in’, but Dr. Benson is certainly one of those people,” described Ayaz Pathan, MD, ApolloMD Regional President. “Whether it is at home, in the hospital or in his community, he’s exponentially involved. In his three years with the organization, he’s earned the respect of local partners, hospital leadership and everyone here at ApolloMD with his hard work and engagement. I’m honored to know Dr. Benson and work alongside him.”

Dr. Benson currently serves as the emergency medicine Medical Director at Maria Parham Health and Maria Parham Health Franklin in Henderson, N.C. He also serves as Medical Director for Vance County Emergency Services.

Dr. Benson received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Morehouse University in Atlanta, Ga. He received his Doctor of Medicine from Meharry Medical College School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. Dr. Benson completed his emergency medicine residency at the University of Chicago and his EMS fellowship at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He is currently completing his Master of Business Administration at North Carolina State University

Dr. Benson is an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, American Academy of Emergency Medicine, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, Air Medical Physician Association, and the National Kidney Foundation.

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