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Utah Doctor of the Year gives hope to babies in the critical first minute of life

Published: Friday, June 8 2012 5:13 p.m. MDT

Dr. Frank Bentley, far right, holds a baby he and a nurse midwife, center, helped to resuscitate while on a service/teaching mission in Senegal, Africa, in 2005. The baby was named after Bentley's wife, Jean, left.

Frank Bentley

SALT LAKE CITY — A newborn's best chance of survival happens in the first 60 seconds of life, when it is imperative that they take their first breath.

LDS Hospital pediatrician Dr. Frank Bentley has traveled around the world for the past decade educating women and those who help deliver babies on just how important that first "golden minute" is in sustaining life.

For his example and 36 years of service in the state and abroad, Bentley's peers with the Utah Medical Association Alliance have named him Utah Doctor of the Year.

"At LDS Hospital, we have a resuscitation team that can rush in and know what to do to help a baby," Bentley said. "But out in these developing countries, they don't have all the equipment or knowledge. They may just set a baby aside and wait to see what will happen."

Birth asphyxia is responsible for the lives of nearly a million babies worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Simple techniques, such as cleaning and stimulating the baby after birth, watching for important changes in vital signs and using a small ventilation bag and mask to encourage breathing can be the difference between life and death.

"These things are simple, but their impact is huge," Bentley said. He estimates that he's trained 600 to 700 nurses, midwives and physicians, who end up teaching others.

Countless babies get a chance at life due to his service, including a 7-year-old in Senegal who was resuscitated by Bentley and named after his wife, Jean.

The couple began traveling to Africa and Latin America to give their nine children an experience outside of their home community. Their work has included building clinics as well as other humanitarian and educational pursuits. They now perform the service as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Dr. Bentley is a wonderful physician and person," said Deb Whipple, LDS Hospital nurse manager. She has worked with Bentley at the hospital and in Kenya. "Our nurses truly enjoy working with him and respect him for the kind and compassionate care he gives to families."

To have been nominated for the annual Utah Medical Association award, Bentley has made an impression also on physician peers throughout the state.

"The medical knowledge he has helped spread to other lands and providers is invaluable," said UMA president Dr. Brian Shiozawa. "How many newborns have survived those first critical hours of life because someone taught by Dr. Bentley knew how to get the child to breathe?"

Bentley, who studied medicine at the University of Utah and the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, also works with patients at the Primary Children's Medical Center, and currently practices at the Intermountain Memorial Clinic. In addition to his medical work, Bentley has sung with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and also participated in various facets of church service.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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