AS FOUNDER, OWNER, AND MEDICAL DIRECTOR, Dr. Paul Benson sets the tone for the Be Well Medical Center. The practice reflects the philosophy that Dr. Benson has developed over the course of 40 years dedicated to his profession and his patients.
As a family medicine practice, Be Well Medical Center provides primary medical care for people of all ages, treating many common conditions from diabetes to high blood pressure, while also maintaining relationships with other health care providers and facilities for people who need more specialized care.
Dr. Benson refers to his practice as “your neighbor-hood medical center with a heart,” because he is committed to the principle that while ideal patient care requires keeping up with the latest relevant advances in medical knowledge, treatments, and technology, it also requires never losing sight of the human side of medicine. A family practitioner especially – who often maintains lifelong relationships with patients, in some cases across multiple generations in a family – needs to manifest virtues including patience, being a good listener, and compassion in order to provide the best care.
Be Well Medical Center offers evening hours four days a week, as well as some Saturday hours for patients’ convenience. Their staff of health care providers and support staff are all highly capable and have been trained by Dr. Benson to reflect his practice’s philosophy.
Helping people live healthier lifestyles, and preventing health problems rather than waiting for them to arise before addressing them, requires good communication between doctor and patient. To facilitate this, Dr. Benson contends, a family practice must create an atmosphere of honesty and trust, where people feel comfortable speaking frankly, asking and answering questions, providing information, admitting concerns and fears, etc., even when it comes to personal and potentially sensitive aspects of their life and health.
If there is something that sets Dr. Benson and Be Well Medical Center apart from many other family practices, it is his conviction—informed by decades of experience—that sexual health is an under appreciated and underemphasized aspect of health care.
As defined by the World Health Organization, “Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality; not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual Dr. Benson refers to his practice as “your health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, [and] the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”
A family doctor, Dr. Benson contends, must not regard addressing the sexual health of his or her patients as optional or as of minor importance. Not when we live in a time when—just to mention a few relevant and concerning points—there are more than 110 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in this country, the lifetime risk of contracting HIV for African American men who have sex with men is approximately 50%, the long-declining rates of gonorrhea and syphilis have in recent years reversed direction and risen, approximately half of all new STIs each year occur among people 24 years of age and younger, and studies show that people tend to drastically underestimate their likelihood of contracting HIV.
Addressing sexual health with one’s patients has multiple components: sexual history discussions, sex education, and STI testing. Dr. Benson maintains that if you are the physician responsible for providing a person’s primary medical care, taking your patient’s sexual history should be as much a routine part of your job as taking their blood pressure or asking about their allergies. A sexual history should be taken on a new patient’s initial visit, whenever the patient receives a routine preventive exam, and whenever there are indications of an STI.
A discussion of sexual health should include educating the patient with current information regarding HIV and other STIs and their prevention, including addressing appropriate condom use with any sexually active patient. Individuals deemed at risk for STIs should be encouraged to get tested regularly, every 3 to 6 months depending on the degree and nature of the risk.
Sexual health is a matter close to Dr. Benson’s heart. He has been on the forefront in the battle against HIV since before the terms “HIV” and “AIDS” even existed. He has seen far too many lives damaged and lives lost as a result of inadequate communication, education, and understanding of risk concerning sexual matters. In addition to being board certified in Family Medicine, he is accredited as an HIV Specialist by the American Academy of HIV Medicine.
Dr. Benson has published extensively in medical journals, has been the principal investigator for many therapeutic drug trials in the HIV field, and is a national speaker on many health-related issues. He has served as President of the St. John Oakland Physicians Organization, as well as of the local Berkley Rotary Club. Dr. Benson’s pledge to the community is that Be Well Medical Center will always be open and welcoming to those of all races, genders, ages, orientations, etc. All people who walk in the door are respected, valued, and accepted as deserving of individualized care.