Doc­tors re­tire from physi­cians group

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - JANELLE JESSEN

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

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

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.”

WORK­ING TO­GETHER

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.”

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