The American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) has selected Elizabeth (Cason) Benton, MD, to receive the 2018 Paul V. Miles (PVM) Fellowship Award, given annually to an accomplished mid-career pediatrician dedicated to improving the quality of health care for children. Dr. Benton is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and founding Director of the Alabama Child Health Improvement Alliance (ACHIA).
Dr. Benton’s strong interest in quality improvement (QI) grew after seeing QI projects improve care at UAB’s Primary Care Clinic, where she has been practicing since 1998 and served as medical director before becoming director of ACHIA in 2013.
“My passion is putting boots-on-the ground QI opportunities together for practitioners — because their priority is taking care of children,” Dr. Benton said. “How can we deliver QI opportunities to them in a way that is meaningful and immediately actionable?”
Mitchell B. Cohen, MD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UAB said Dr. Benton’s skill goes far beyond UAB. “She has not only been instrumental in developing quality improvement initiatives at our institution, but also in fostering a culture of quality improvement in primary care across the state of Alabama,” he said in his nomination letter. “ACHIA’s QI endeavors have helped shift attitudes towards QI from ‘something required for professional standing’ to a valued component of ‘the way we do business.’”
ACHIA, a statewide alliance of public and private partners, uses measurement-based efforts and a systems approach to improve the quality of children’s health. Since 2013, Dr. Benton has developed and led five quality improvement collaboratives across Alabama that strengthen the continuous QI skills of participating physicians and are organized around topics such as obesity prevention, screening for developmental delays, and preventing HPV-related cancers.
Each year, the ABP’s PVM Fellow receives an invitation to come to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to share their ideas, innovations, and enthusiasm for quality improvement with the ABP staff and to present Pediatric Grand Rounds at both the University of North Carolina and Duke University medical schools.
“We look forward to Dr. Benton’s presentations,” said Virginia Moyer, MD, MPH, Vice President, Maintenance of Certification and Quality at the ABP. “Her passion and knowledge about building statewide partnerships from the ground up to improve medical care for children will provide a powerful base for interesting conversations and learning.”
Dr. Benton said it is critical to learn from national partners when building a statewide improvement partnership (IP). “Many IPs that went before us received federal grants from the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009,” she said. Colleagues from the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program and the Utah Pediatric Partnership to Improve Healthcare Quality visited Alabama to provide mentorship and support. “Because of them, we were able to do so much in a short amount of time.”
Key partners at the state level include the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Children’s of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Public Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, the Alabama Medicaid Agency, Family Voices of Alabama, UAB, the University of South Alabama, and other public and private partners.
“Dr. Benton’s steadfast pursuit of clinical excellence through the advancement of quality improvement science has been recognized by the Alabama Chapter of the AAP,” said Dr. Cohen. She is a member of the AAP’s Maintenance of Certification Portfolio Review Panel and has also been an invited speaker for multiple interdisciplinary groups at local and national levels on issues related to quality improvement in pediatric care.
Dr. Benton also serves on the Board of the Alabama Chapter of the AAP and serves as the Network Medical Director for Alabama Care Plan, an Alabama Medical Region B Health Home. Previously, she has been honored with Ralph E. Tiller Distinguished Faculty Award, Argus Society Awards for Excellence in Pediatric Teaching, and other awards.
She attended medical school at the University of Alabama and completed residency at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1997. She became certified in General Pediatrics by the ABP in 1997 and continues to meet the requirements for Maintenance of Certification.