Local doctor wins state award


Laura Bennett enjoys a cup of tea in her office after she performed a c-section at Central Montana Medical Center last week.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

Choosing the route of a family physician can be tough: Those doctors see a range of patients, a range of cases and, unlike some of their colleagues, they’re expected to be specialists at being a jack-of-all-trades.

Throw in rural Montana, and career passion becomes a job requirement. Laura Bennett, a doctor practicing family medicine and obstetrics, fits the bill. In fact, she now sets the standard: This month, Bennett was named Montana Family Physician of the Year by the Montana Academy of Family Physicians.

The award was a bit of a surprise for Bennett.

“I did not know about this until about a month before the presentation,” she said.

It turns out an old colleague of Bennett’s, someone she went through residency with, had nominated her. Although he’s not in Central Montana, the doctor did enlist local help: Bennett’s nomination included letters of support from fellow CMMC staff and medical residents she had taught.

Bennett was not only surprised, she was humbled.

“Obviously, I’m honored because the previous people who’ve been Family Physicians of Year have been people I’ve respected,” she said.

Bennett credits the impact she’s had to the years she’s spent as a doctor.

“I think part of it was that I’ve been here for 25 years,” she said. “I’ve taught medical students. I’ve been consistently part of the community, which creates stability. In doing those things, you can create change.”

Bennett also attributed her award to her work environment.

“I think the bedrock to always do what I did was relationships with my patients,” she said. “I also enjoyed my relationships with my colleagues and with my peers. They always have been really rewarding and engaging.”

She described CMMC as a supportive workplace, although the support of Bennett’s family has also contributed to her work. She described the value of time spent with her family, from hiking with her daughters to riding a tandem bike with her husband. Bennett said those were times she was able to recharge.

Although reluctant to admit it, part of the award belongs to Bennett herself. The doctor has served on the CMMC Governing Board, and is patient focused. Bennett’s priorities show through even when explaining her career choice as a family physician.

“I enjoyed the fact you could reach out to a lot of people in a lot of different ways,” she said. “The broad spectrum really appealed to me. You see pretty much everybody, from the cradle to the grave: You do deliveries, you take care of the elderly.”

Part of Bennett’s success may come from how she sees her field.

“In family medicine, you’re never bored,” she said. “You’re always learning from the field, colleagues, patients.”

Another piece may come from the standards she sets for herself.

“You have to be very aware of what you know and what you don’t know [as a family physician],” she said. “You have to be willing to reach out to other people, specialists, and ask questions. You have to be curious. The biggest challenge is sometimes nobody has the answers.”

A major ingredient, though, is Bennett’s character.
“A big challenge is trying to help a patient see the potential of where they can go, but seeing them not choose that path,” she said. “That’s also been some of the biggest rewards, seeing people make good choices and really become healthy.”

The cherry on top is the legacies she’s helped shape.

“In doing what you do, you do good work unconsciously, but being able to have students realize you can have a career in a small town and it can be enriching, it can be balanced, you can still have time to have a family . . . ” she said.

Bennett paused before adding many of the medical students she’s taught have returned to Montana and to small towns. She said it with a smile, over a warm cup of tea.

All of that has made Bennett Montana Family Physician of the Year.



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