Make an impact | Richmond Free Press

Joyce Carter happily drives 40 miles from Caroline County to Richmond so her three adopted children can see a doctor.

For her, the care the children receive from Dr. Lillie Robinson Bennett is worth it.

“I trust her,” Ms. Carter said as she explained why she is heading to Dr. Bennett’s office on Chamberlayne Avenue on the North Side when she has other options.

Mrs. Carter is hardly alone.

For thousands of Richmond mothers and fathers, Dr. Bennett is the doctor they want for the health of their children. And that’s how Dr. Bennett has practiced in this city for almost 50 years.

Dr Bennett ranks among the oldest, if not the oldest, of the 295 pediatricians specializing in the care and treatment of babies, children and adolescents in the greater Richmond area.

She still has a ways to go, however, to equal the 73-year record of the late Atlanta pediatrician Leila Denmark, who practiced until the age of 103.

Dr. Bennett doesn’t say his age – “I’m not talking about age” – but 58 years have passed since graduating in 1963 from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn.

As Thanksgiving approaches, Dr. Bennett is thankful for the good health that kept her going, which she attributes to exercise, good nutrition and “keeping a positive attitude.”

She is also grateful to have a joint practice with her son, Dr. Richard L. Bennett Jr., who has followed her into medicine and sees her young patients at her office on the campus of Bon Secours-Richmond Community Hospital. in the East. To finish.

Dr. Bennett is also grateful to her longtime staff, four of whom have been with her for decades. Among them are LaVette Branch, 40; Gwendolyn Coley, 43; Carol Harris, 42, and Brenda Johnson, 38.

Although most doctors retire at the age of 70, Dr. Bennett has no plans to do so. She said it’s not about the money, it’s about the job.

“I love what I do,” she says. “And I love every child that comes to see me.”

Hundreds of photos of his young patients adorn several walls of his office.

Dr. Bennett said she looks forward to the commute from her Ashland home to her office and the chance to interact with 20 to 40 children a day. She said she continues to find the job “deeply rewarding”.

She is delighted to see her patients “growing up and helping them and their parents to anticipate each stage of their development”. She is delighted when a patient with health problems recovers.

Dr. Bennett works five days a week, seeing patients from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for four days, with a shorter day on Wednesday.

Her schedule is a little lighter than 20 years ago because she no longer makes hospital visits. Although she has privileges at all hospitals in the area, she said a new breed of doctors called hospitalists are now taking over care when her patients need surgery or other hospital treatment. important.

However, she refused to let the pandemic prevent her from seeing patients, although she maintained her precautions.

“I never closed my office” after COVID-19 arrived in March 2020, she said.

An old-school doctor who believes in the need to see patients in person, she has banned virtual visits or telemedicine, instead demanding that everyone who enters her office be masked and maintain social distancing.

She said she also continues to encourage parents and children to get vaccinated, as she does, but added that she did not receive the vaccine to be administered at the office.

So far, strict protocols have worked, she said.

Dr Bennett said she tries to see each child at least twice a year, and sometimes more often, to monitor treatment and see how they are doing. She said she treated the children even though the adults in their lives were behind on payments. “It’s not the kids’ fault,” she said.

Online physician review sites such as Healthgrades, WebMD, and US News Health give it high marks, although there are some reviews.

Based on the responses, these sites primarily give her five stars – the highest rating – for the overall patient experience, the thoroughness of her exams, the time she spends with patients, follow-up care, perceived health outcomes and for his positive attitude and ease in making appointments.

Dr. Harold Green, an internal medicine specialist whose office is a few doors down, describes Dr. Bennett “as an excellent doctor who is focused on the well-being of his patients.”

Many of the babies and youth she cares for are the children and grandchildren of former patients. This is the case with

Chryshunda Moore, who first came to Dr. Bennett as a newborn baby and is now bringing her son.

“No matter what I need for my child to be healthy, she’s doing it every time,” Ms. Moore said of Dr. Bennett in an enthusiastic review. “My son loves him, and that says a lot to me.”

Another parent, Lisa Wheless, wrote: “Dr. Bennett looked after my mom, me and now my daughter. I am 23 years old. Do the math. She is a phenomenal woman.

Although the practice occupies a large portion of her time, Dr. Bennett has also been involved in outside activities, including local, state and national medical associations. She is also a founder and active member of the James River Chapter of The Links Inc. and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She is also a former administrator of Fifth Street Baptist and Garland Avenue Baptist churches.

Dr Bennett believes she was born to be a doctor. She said she was 5 when she decided it was her calling. She said she spent her childhood treating her dolls and pets like her patients, and all of her siblings and classmates who would let her.

Born in Richmond to a family of educators, Dr. Bennett grew up in Louisa and Hanover counties, returning to the city to attend and graduate from Armstrong High School. She earned a degree in chemistry from Virginia Union University before heading to medical school. After graduating from Meharry, she completed her internship and residency in New York at Harlem Hospital Center.

She got married and had two children. His daughter, Judge Mary Bennett Malveaux, is a lawyer like Dr. Bennett’s sister, Janipher W. Robinson, and became the first black judge of the Henrico County General District Court. Judge Malveaux is now a judge at the Virginia Court of Appeal.

Dr Bennett said she opened her first pediatric practice in Compton, Calif. When she was married, then returned to Richmond after divorcing. She said she first held a pediatric position at the Medical College of Virginia and then started her practice in Richmond on North Avenue around 1973.

After the sale of her office medical building a few years ago, she moved to her current space.

Only two things shake her. One is the death of a member of his patients from illness or violence. The other is that one of his patients faces serious charges of wrongdoing.

In a practice in which a significant fraction of her patients are on Medicaid, she said this is happening more often than she would like. She wishes she had a “magic bullet”.

She said that some of the children she sees are “under a lot of stress” and experience challenges in their neighborhood that many adults don’t.

Dr Bennett said the only way to tackle the problem of youth violence is to continue to “reduce” the problem. She considers it important that adults in authority begin by speaking and listening to young people to better understand what they are going through. She said adults should also surround children with love and show them respect, “but above all listen to their concerns.”

This, she says, is what she has been trying to do in her practice for almost 50 years.

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