It’s safe to say that Dr. John Bentley has found a home in Springfield and a place in the area’s medical history archives.
His first stint in the Show-Me state came while pursuing his undergrad from the University of Missouri in the 1950s. That’s where he met his wife, Roseann. After serving four years in the Navy, the Philadelphia native completed medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, and then internal medicine training at the University of Wisconsin.
Bentley began practicing medicine at St. John’s, now Mercy Hospital Springfield, in the late 1960s. And he served there for 35 years, including a role as chief of staff.
“In the beginning of course I was in a private clinic, it was known as the Glen Turner Clinic of Internal Medicine with offices in the Professional Building. We all owned our own practices then,” Bentley said.
The medical practice began to change in the 1980s, Bentley said, as big hospitals began to buy practices. As he puts it, medicine became more of a corporation effort, rather than a private enterprise effort. It’s one of the reasons he became involved in volunteer work.
“During that time then I got interested in the Kitchen Clinic and served as medical director of the Kitchen Clinic for probably 10-15 years, and then we started the Jordan Valley Community Health Center.”
It was at the clinic that Bentley met Sister Lorraine, founder of the Missouri Hotel, who Bentley calls his mentor and heroine.
The patient capacity was sparse, at first, serving only 5-10 each day. Bentley said he and Lorraine realized they had to expand to really serve the underserved.
“The opportunity then came along to apply for a grant from the federal government to get some startup money to start was is still known as the community healthcare center.”
When Jordan Valley Community Health Center was founded in 2002, Bentley said he wasn’t sure how large the operation would become.
“We started with seven employees in a littler storefront clinic out on East Division Street. We now have over 300 and some employees and we’re in the great big building downtown by the viaduct. No, we had no idea we were gonna do this.”
Jordan Valley treats uninsured patients, those with Medicaid and individuals with regular insurance. Bentley calls this 3-teired model by community health centers “the future of reimbursement in medicine.”
Bentley supports the Affordable Care Act, and challenges the law’s critics to visit the clinic to see how “integrated medicine at a reasonable cost is a good thing.”
He acknowledges that tweaks to the law are needed.
Bentley said, “I think there has to be a better definition of who can acquire the insurance. There has to be some better payment technique for the insurance, and medicine itself has to learn how to take care of people without spending four or five times as much as they need to to take care of something that’s minor.”
He said it’s a common practice at Jordan Valley to ask the patients up front if they can afford a certain procedure or type of medicine.
Dr. John Bentley was honored as the 2015 Springfieldian by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce on January 30. He’s no stranger to accomplishments, however.
The Chamber says Bentley is one of only a handful of individuals to be recognized with the Humanitarian Award, Missourian Award and the Springfieldian Award, which he received in 2002, 2010, and 2015, respectively. He also earned the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Salute to Healthcare Award in 1999, the Gift of Time Volunteer of the Year Award in 2000, and the Citizenship and Community Service Award in 2003 from the Missouri State Medical Association.
View the video naming Dr. Bentley the 2015 Springfieldian.