There is a new doctor in town, and local families are his business.
Vincent Benig is the newest doctor in Shorewood. To hear him talk about how he came to be here, each stage of his career is interwoven with his own family milestones.
He does not tell you about his engineering degree from the University of Illinois or his two years working at a pharmaceutical company without mentioning that is when he married his wife, Sandy. Nor will he say he also went to the University of Illinois for medical school without next saying that's when their first daughter, Lily, now 13, was born.
So it is no surprise Benig wanted to work with local families while being closer to his own. He sold his Chicago practice to make the move. Recently, Benig started Shorewood Family Medicine, 1144 W. Jefferson St., at the corner of Ridge Road next to Walgreens. His is the only practice of its kind in the area.
"It's a lot easier to go home for lunch and be with family," Benig said.
Choosing Family Medicine
Although Shorewood Family Medicine may be new, Benig's dedication to family, whether his own or his patients', is something he has known for many years. In fact, his residency at Hinsdale Hospital was in family practice, he said. Of course, during his residency, Benig points out, their son Theo, now 10, was born.
They moved to Shorewood to work in Channahon. Then he decided to work with his mother, Dr. Corazon Benig, who owned an internal medicine practice on the South Side of Chicago. He traveled every day from Shorewood to work with her, and eventually bought her practice. While working there, their daughter Mabel, 5, was born. Also, he and Sandy now foster parent Joey, age 1. Spending so much travel time away from his family, the commute seemed to be getting longer.
Still, he always knew he wanted to make a direct connection with families. His mother's practice of internal medicine was for adults, whereas family medicine, his residency, is for both adults and children.
"I always liked building relationships with people and watching their families grow and being their doctor," he said.
He was not able to make that connection with families as a pharmaceutical engineer, either. He wasn't able to see the fruits of his labor. So he chose medical school.
"I didn't really see the results of what I was doing," he said. "I wanted to be closer to the people."
Now, as a doctor, he prescribes Celebrex, the very drug he was working on as an engineer.
In addition to the long commute, Benig felt a disconnect between working in Chicago while living in Shorewood. He has volunteered at the Will Grundy Free Clinic for the past five years, but practiced medicine in Cook County.
Feeling he already had a lot invested in the Shorewood area—his children attend school here, play sports here, take dance classes here—he decided to bring his practice home.
"It seemed natural to be able to serve here as well," he said.
What first attracted his family to Shorewood 10 years ago were the schools. He and Sandy found a home in a wooded area much like where he grew up in Palos Park. They love Shorewood's small-town feel, Benig explained. They love taking their family to Hammel Woods. And on a practical level, Benig said details like quickly-plowed roads and well-manicured trees make for a very nice place to live year round.
Philosophy of Care
In an independently owned practice, Benig said patients work one-on-one with their care providers without feeling like a number or just a name on a chart. Benig's philosophy of care is to treat the whole patient, taking into account their entire well-being, not just their physical ailments. For example, during an end-of-life situation, there is not much that a doctor can do on a medical level. However, Benig believes there is so much that he does for patients, for their lives and for their families' lives. Benig said that kind of care starts with listening.
Once you stop paying attention to the whole patient, you take them for granted, he explained. Then the focus becomes getting through the day. Benig said his goal is to always listen to each patient, to treat the whole patient, and to never take them for granted.
As for the future, Benig said he does not have any grand plans to become a large practice, which might distract him from continuing to take care of each patient.
"I'll stay small," Benig said. "I want to still spend time with patients."
One of the first steps in taking care of patients is having a good staff. Benig believes his team fits that bill. His office administrator is Amanda Daluga and the medical assistant is Lisa Marie Carrera. All three answer phones, take appointments, or even sweep.
"We are all willing to do whatever needs to get done," he said.
Carrera said that it is not uncommon for patients to comment about the quality of care they receive.
"It feels good when patients say 'OK, you listened'," she explained.
Also, she said people often tell her that Benig made a great move by coming to Shorewood because there are no other medical practices like his in the area.
Office hours for Shorewood Family Medicine are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; and Wednesday for emergencies and by appointment. At least one Saturday a month, hours are 9 a.m. to noon. The office accepts all major insurance providers. For more information or to make an appointment with Benig, call 815-729-1010.