Doctors retire from physicians group
Dr. George Benjamin and Dr. Dale Clemens, representing a combined 78 years of experience in the medical field, retired from Community Physicians Group last month.
The two doctors were honored at a retirement reception Tuesday at the Arvest Bank Community Room.
Both Clemens and Benjamin spent the majority of their career in Siloam Springs, and were among the founders of Community Physicians Group.
Clemens grew up in Siloam Springs and graduated from Siloam Springs High School. He served in the United States Navy as a naval aviator for three and a half years, before going on to medical school at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in Little Rock. He completed his residency at Area Health Education Center of Northwest Arkansas, now University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Northwest Campus.
Clemens came back to his hometown to serve as a family practitioner in 1981. Over the years he has also worked in occupational medicine and served as chief of staff at Siloam Springs Regional Hospital and as a medical review officer. He is a member of Community Christian Fellowship.
Mona Collins, who served as Clemens’ nurse for more than four years and has been his patient for more than 30 years, said Clemens has impressed her with the way he cares about his patients.
Collins said Clemens was known to make house calls to help out patients who were home-bound. He would also stay late to call patients and give them lab results in person, rather than delegating the job to a nurse.
“He just goes out of his way,” Collins said. “He just really, really cares about people.”
Collins said that Clemens also has a dry sense of humor and loved to laugh.
Dr. Dan Springer, Clemens’ brother-in-law, said Clemens has often dressed as an elf and while he (Springer) has dressed as Santa Claus at Christmas time.
“He has a lot of patients who just think he is the cat’s meow,” Springer said. “He has that dedication and he’s taken care of them. Sometimes he has taken care of multiple generations of them and they all just love him to death.”
Benjamin was born in Nashville, Tenn., and grew up in Little Rock. After serving two years in Nigeria in the Peace Corps, he attended medical school at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in Little Rock. He was an intern at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and completed his family practice residency at Oregon Health Science University in Portland. Benjamin also served two years in Public Health Service in an Indian Health Hospital.
Benjamin began practicing medicine in Siloam Springs in 1975. He has served as medical director at Siloam Springs Medical Center and as past chief of staff at Siloam Springs Regional Hospital. He is a member of Grace Episcopal Church.
Benjamin was also very involved in starting the Community Clinic of Siloam Springs Medical.
Jeannie Luttrell, who served as Benjamin’s nurse for a combined total of more than 30 years, said his kindness to patients and employees stands out in her mind.
“He cared a lot about the community and about the people in the community,” Luttrell said. “I think that was probably recognized best at Community Clinic and his efforts to get that started.”
Raquel Beck, office manager for Community Clinic of Siloam Springs Medical, worked closely with Benjamin first at Community Physicians Group and then as he worked to open the nonprofit clinic for the uninsured.
“He’s the best,” Beck said of Benjamin. “He is such a gentleman with such a kind heart. It’s because of Dr. Benjamin we are here. It’s because of his vision back in 2000, from there came St. Francis Clinic and then Community Clinic.”
Beck described Benjamin as giving, dedicated and intelligent.
“I consider (Dr. George and Mary Benjamin) to be such good friends and yet I just look up to them,” Beck said. “They have put so much time and dedication into this community.”
Both Benjamin and Clemens said they have seen tremendous advances in medical and diagnostic technology over their careers.
“I don’t think patients have changed,” Clemens said with a laugh, and Benjamin agreed.
“That’s been the fun of this to me,” Benjamin said. “Having that kind of relationships with (patients) for years, you know, taking care of them as kids, and then (taking care of) their babies, and that sort of things.”
The two doctors worked closely over the years, sometimes helping each other with surgeries and Cesarean sections. They have watched the growth of the Siloam Springs Medical Center as it moved to its current location on Jefferson Street, the formation of Community Physicians Group and the building of the new Siloam Springs Regional Hospital.
An especially rewarding part of their careers has been delivering multiple generations of babies in Siloam Springs.
Benjamin said that once he was at a Christmas pageant, when he began to realize he had delivered three-quarters of the children in the pageant.
“We had the same sort of thing when our kids were young, and you would open the yearbook and see how many kids you had delivered,” Clemens said.
Tommye Strassheim has worked for CPG for nearly 53 years, and during that time she has watched Clemens’ and Benjamin’s careers from the beginning.
“They were both wonderful to work with,” she said.
Both Benjamin and Clemens have treated their patients like family for many years, she said.
“We’re going to miss them both,” she said. “They’re just special, I don’t know how to explain how special they are.”