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SUNY Downstate Medical Center


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Karen Benker, MD

Associate Professor

Department of Family Medicine

Department of Health Policy and Management

  • About

In August 1998, Dr. Karen E. Benker was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Practice. During the year prior to being appointed to the Faculty, she was the Family Practice Fellow in Faculty Development. From 1998 to 2004, Dr. Benker served as Medical Director of Family Health Services and as coordinator of geriatrics training for the Family Practice residents.

Dr. Benker was Board Certified in both Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine, and she held faculty appointments in both Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine. In 2004, she relinquished her full-time duties in Family Practice in order to concentrate on developing and implementing the Master of Public Health Program at SUNY Downstate. As the Department of Preventive Medicine evolved into Downstate's School of Public Health, Dr. Benker took her place as one of the School's core faculty members.

In the School of Public Health, Dr. Benker's work centers around improving the adaptation of health and social services to the public health needs of urban and immigrant populations. Her main educational focus is training competent public health practitioners. She teaches the courses Issues in Urban Health and Field Experience in Maternal and Child Health. She is also the co-coordinator of the Culminating Experience, the final project MPH students complete for graduation. As Associate Dean for Community Public Health Affairs, she helps the program maintain active relationships with over thirty community-based organizations and agencies for collaborative work and student fieldwork.

Dr. Benker's previous research and advocacy focused on homeless families, foster children, and abused children. Her current areas of research are (1) prevention of infant mortality, (2) smoking cessation and cancer prevention. She has funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the evaluation of an innovative community coalition to lower infant mortality in Brownsville, Brooklyn by promoting pre-conceptual maternal health and lowering stress during pregnancy. She is site-principal investigator for a National Cancer Institute-funded Minority-Based Community Clinical Oncology Program study comparing the nicotine lozenge to the patch for smoking cessation. She is also principal investigator on a local study to clarify how local cancer patients would like to receive education about clinical trials.

In 2012, Dr. Benker was named Director of Community Medicine in the Family Medicine Residency Training Program.