Dentist is advocate for Piedmont’s progress
by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star
Aug 13, 2013 | 1752 views |  0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. Benjaman Ingram with patient Alan McDowell. Photo: Anita Kilgore/The Jacksonville News
Dr. Benjaman Ingram with patient Alan McDowell. Photo: Anita Kilgore/The Jacksonville News
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Dr. Benjamin Ingram has a lot invested in Piedmont. He’s trying to make that investment pay off. He wants the payoff to not only benefit himself, he wants the entire town to prosper and he’s worked toward that end for many years.

He and his wife, the former, Sandra Steward, were born and reared in Piedmont. Sandra is the daughter of Mutt and Frances Steward. They reared their children here. They are all products of the Piedmont City School System.

Dr. Ingram arrived Aug. 13, 1957, one of the first babies to be born at then Piedmont Hospital. He and Dr. Russell Ulrich performed the last surgery before the hospital closed in 1991. While Dr. Ingram did the periodontal surgery, Dr. Ulrich monitored the patient’s vital signs in the same operating room that Dr. Ingram was born in.

Dr. Ingram’s parents are Betty and the late George Ingram. His father owned Piedmont Gardencrete Center, which, among other things, made ornamental concrete structures. All through school, the three Ingram sons helped their father and mother pour concrete, landscape yards, set tombstones and raise chickens.

“I was blessed to have two loving parents with strong work ethics,” said Dr. Ingram. “They passed this on to my brothers and me.”

His brothers are Dr. Russell Ingram, a family practice medical doctor in Jacksonville, and Stephen Ingram, who is retired from the textile industry.

Dr. Ingram’s desire to be a dentist began in fourth grade. It was National Health Week and it was also during the Vietnam Era. His teacher, Eleanor Kirkpatrick, had her students draw pictures about that subject. Young Benjamin drew a picture of a tooth with a green beret. The tooth had arms with a .45 caliber pistol, and it says, “Please keep me clean so I can fight my enemies.”

The picture hangs in his office.

While the Green Berets were his fighting heroes, his hometown hero and mentor was Dr. E. D. Wallace, who spent 55 years practicing dentistry in Piedmont. Dr. Wallace retired around 1983, about the same time that Dr. Ingram was beginning to practice here.

After graduating from the University of Alabama in 1978, Dr. Ingram went on to get his dental degree from the University of Alabama in Birmingham School of Dentistry. He opened his dental practice on his birthday, Aug. 13, in 1984. He was 27 years old.

“When I came in, there were three other full time dentists,” he said. “My local pastor Brother Bob said he’d pray for me because he didn’t think I’d make it.”

Sandra was his office manager and he hired Dawn (Holmes) Weaver, who still works with him, as a hygienist. His entire staff has been with him about 29 years. Dr. Ingram describes the office as having a family atmosphere.

Sandra continues to work as office administrator. Telisha Ward is office manager, Randa Carroll is dental assistant coordinator, Christi Johnson is a hygienist, Krista Kerns and Allison Martin are hygienists/assistants, and Cindy Harris is office manager.

Dr. Ingram feels blessed to have the opportunity to practice dentistry with his staff. “They are the best,” he said. He is humbled by the support received by his dental patients over the past 29 years. “I look forward to many more years as a dentist” he said.

Dr. Ingram is a member of the American Dental Association, University of Alabama School of Dentistry Alumni Association where he serves on the Executive Council, Alabama Dental Association, Alabama Fifth District Dental Society and Academy of General Dentistry where he earned his Fellowship accreditation.

Dr. and Mrs. Ingram attend First Baptist Church. He has served on three city boards. He’s been on the school board 15 years, the Downtown Redevelopment Authority three years and the Piedmont Health Care Authority 22 years. He’s currently president of that authority, which was established as a three member board.

“We were established as a bonding authority to borrow $1.3 million in 1991 to try to keep the hospital going and to operate the nursing home which was, at that time, a 31 bed home at the old hospital, “ he said. “We’ve been able to turn that into a new state-of-the-art 91 bed specialty care facility that includes a dementia unit and rehabilitation unit on a senior community campus on Highway 9.”

The authority has come a long way in providing good health care for Piedmont’s residents, but it wasn’t easy getting to where it is now.

“We had about $900 in a Coca-Cola vending machine, we had no money and we had payroll coming,” said Dr. Ingram. “We were borrowing money trying to keep the old nursing home going. From that board in 1991, we were able to start working with a management company, Preferred Health Services (PHS), out of Centre. What developed from that became the Piedmont Health Care Authority.”

He said that for the past 22 years, he’s had the privilege of working with Jerry Culberson, president of PHS, which manages Piedmont’s nursing home, as well as the nursing home in Centre. Dr. Ingram said he’s seen dreams turn into realities through his association with Culberson.

The authority has partnered with Anniston Regional Medical Center to open an urgent care medical clinic soon. Next month a 16 resident specialty care assisted living facility will open near the nursing home.

“This past year, we opened a community center where the public can come in and have functions,” he said. “It also serves as a disaster storm shelter, education facility for our staff and a day care for our staff’s children. That’s just one of the off-growths of our 91-bed nursing home.”

Dr. Ingram and the Health Care Authority developed and funded the Piedmont Benevolence Center in 2010 to serve the social, economic, health, physical and spiritual needs of the poor in the Piedmont area.

The Benevolence Center services 400 square miles and four counties, and last year gave away 160+ tons of food. Dr. Ingram is proud that the community, churches and business are working together under the leadership of executive director Heather Lamey to help over 820 needy families in the Piedmont area this past year.

All of these facilities and the Benevolence Center are located on the same campus.

“I’m 55 years old, and I’ve had the opportunity to serve almost 41 years concurrently on boards,” he said. “I’ve worked with a lot of good folks. I’ve had the opportunity to work with former school superintendent Dr. Theresa Kisor in establishing the Piedmont Education Trust, a foundation that gives scholarships to students and grants to our teachers. We’ve got a blue ribbon school to be proud of under the leadership of current superintendent Matt Akins.”

Dr. Ingram gives all of Piedmont’s school superintendents, past and present, credit for the success of Piedmont’s city schools.

The Ingrams have two children. Krista Connell and her husband, Brandon, live in Ohatchee. Krista is an accountant, and Brandon is a fireman and paramedic with the cities of Anniston and Jacksonville. They have two sons, Fischer and Hunter. Amanda Cobb and her husband, Geoffrey, have a 1-year-old son, Landon. They live in Moody where Amanda is a dental hygienist, and Geoffrey works at Anniston Army Depot.

“I love my dental profession,“ said Dr. Ingram. “I don’t know what I’d be doing different. I enjoy coming to the office every day. This profession is one of those blessings I was given. Thank God for the opportunity. Mom and dad were just real hard workers, and they kept us three boys busy. My dad never got to finish high school, but he had his own business, he worked hard and he instilled in us to get our educations. I had good loving parents and a supportive wife to get here.”

While Dr. Ingram was going to school, Sandra worked as a secretary in hospitals in Northport and Birmingham.

When he’s not trying to save teeth and serving on city boards, Dr. Ingram enjoys traveling with family and Heidi the family Westie. Dr. Ingram’s bucket list is to see every state and national park in the country and do some international traveling. He and Sandra recently completed a pilgrimage to Israel.

“I keep up the landscaping around my home, office and parents,” he said. “That’s my energy release.”

Dr. Ingram feels blessed for the many opportunities he has been given in life. “Thanks be to God,” he concluded.

Contact Margaret at pollya922@gmail.com.
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Dentist is advocate for Piedmont’s progress by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star

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