By Jacob Baynham
Rachel Bensman doesn’t do things halfway. She was a double major—French and biology. She was the Class of 2007 valedictorian. And as soon as she finishes medical school at Ohio State University this spring, she’s jumping on her bicycle and pedaling 3,700 miles across America to raise money and awareness for health care issues.
“I think I’ve developed a reputation for doing unexpected or interesting things,” she says.
She’s not just a passive rider, of course. She’s CEO of the event, which begins in San Diego and finishes at Bethany Beach, Del. Bensman and the other cyclists ride an average of 80 miles per day, stopping to deliver presentations on health issues to schools, community centers and universities. The idea is to empower people to take their health into their own hands by eating well and maintaining an active lifestyle.
The group is a living, pedaling example of the value of exercise, but they also talk about the distinct health problems faced by poor people in developing countries. The ride raises money for AIDS orphans in Ethiopia and a Cleveland nonprofit that distributes supplies to hospitals around the world.
Bensman imagined going into research or marketing until a theology class inspired her to study medicine. “It really exposed me to the social and cultural context of disease,” she says. “I wanted to have a more human, people-centered career.”
After finishing the ride, she begins a four-year residency in pediatric and adult health. And though she claims to only bike recreationally, she’s excited. “It seemed like the perfect way to cap off med school for me,” she says.