At face value, joining the Sharp HealthCare Foundation board of directors may seem like a fitting move in the professional trajectory of a businesswoman and philanthropist like Sara Bennett.
A principal in Marsh & McLennan Agency’s commercial insurance division, Bennett has been honored with the Business Insurance magazine “Women to Watch Award,” named one of “San Diego’s Next Top Business Leaders Under 40” by the San Diego Business Journal, and was a San Diego Magazine “Woman of the Year” finalist. Recently, she also became the board president of the San Diego Women’s Foundation.
However, serving as vice chair of the Sharp HealthCare Foundation board is more than just a bullet point on her impressive resume. It is the result of an experience that has profoundly shaped her life in ways far beyond the boardroom.
In early 2016, Bennett’s daughter Reese, then 6 months old, became sick and was taken to a Sharp Rees-Stealy Urgent Care Center. Bennett called Reese’s doctor, Dr. Michael Martin, an internal medicine and pediatrics specialist, while they were on their way; Dr. Martin ordered chest X-rays in advance of their arrival.
Dr. Eric Goodman, a board-certified radiologist, read the X-rays that day and noticed that Reese’s heart looked slightly enlarged. He encouraged Bennett and her husband, Todd, to take Reese immediately to Rady Children’s Hospital, where the distraught parents were told that Reese was suffering from congestive heart failure.
“Learning that your child has a life-threatening health condition is one of your worst nightmares as a parent,” Bennett says. “We are so grateful that Dr. Goodman was thoughtful enough to look for signs of illness outside a more typical condition like pneumonia. Had he not done so, Reese’s heart function would have continued to quietly deteriorate.”
Bennett, along with her husband and eldest daughter Brooke, spent endless days at Reese’s bedside. First as she was treated — both in and out of the hospital — to prepare her to undergo open heart surgery, and then months later in the hospital once the surgery was performed.
“The treatment process was stressful for all of us,” she says. “We could not have done it without the support of family, friends, and the doctors and nurses from Sharp Rees-Stealy; specifically, Dr. Martin, who regularly checked in on us, even after-hours and on his days off. We felt so supported.”
Bennett and her husband credit Drs. Martin and Goodman and their colleagues for nothing less than saving Reese’s life. The life-altering experience and the care they received became Bennett’s inspiration to serve, both in helping other parents with ill children and through her work with the Sharp HealthCare Foundation.
“If there’s anything I can do to help make another parent’s experience less stressful, not to mention have a better outcome, I will help in any way I can,” she says.
However, as a busy working mother, time is exceptionally valuable to Bennett. She believes that you must work with organizations that align with your passions so that you will be eager to invest your time and talents with them. Bennett recognized that Sharp’s philosophy and mission closely mirrored her own: Go beyond caring for people to caring about people.
“I am honored to help Sharp carry out its mission to improve the health of everyone it serves,” Bennett says. “I want every San Diegan to know that by choosing and supporting Sharp, they are not only going to receive the highest quality of care, they are also helping to make our community a better place.”
Bennett believes this isn’t simply a sentiment to be shared as she works with the foundation, but an experience she has lived and carries with her. Whether watching little Reese live the happy and healthy life she deserves, or when at the office or while volunteering, Bennett — much like the people of Sharp — knows the value in going above and beyond.
“Sharp helped save my daughter’s life, not to mention provided incredible support to our entire family,” she says. “We are forever grateful.”
Learn more about the three Foundations of Sharp, and how you can make a difference at Sharp HealthCare.