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Bentley has served his community, his country through his profession

By Stephen Lega

As a kid, Eric Bentley dreamed of being a doctor. Today, he is not only living his dream, but he has been recognized for doing it well.

Dr. Bentley received this year's Outstanding Healthcare Professional Award from the Marion County Chamber of Commerce.

"It's kind of flattering," he said. "It's not something you expect, people giving you an award for your job."

Defining Bentley's "job" may be more difficult than it sounds, however.

He is a surgeon with offices in Campbellsville and Lebanon, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, and the medical director for Spring View Hospital's new trauma center. He is also the medical director for Air Evac EMS for the state of Kentucky, and he is board certified by the American Board of Surgery in general surgery and hospice and palliative medicine.

"All of those jobs are jobs in and of themselves," said Dr. Brady Reid, one of Bentley's partners at Central Kentucky Surgical Institute.

Reid has also been impressed with how Bentley maintains an active family life with his various professional responsibilities.

"The fact that he's able to balance so many things is quite inspiring," Reid said.

Bentley credits his ability to manage so many things to the teamwork he receives from his colleagues and coworkers. Nevertheless, it may not be a surprise that his own medical career has taken a variety of twists and turns.

Bentley completed his undergraduate work at the University of Wyoming, and he received his Master of Science in biochemistry at the University of Alabama. He attended medical school at the University of South Alabama, which is where he realized his calling.

"I didn't know I was going to be a surgeon until my third year in medical school," Bentley said. "During my rotations, it was like, 'Wow, this is what I was made for.'"

He compared the experience to becoming a born-again Christian. It was a revelation, he said.

He went on to complete his general surgical residency at the University of Louisville, and in 1990, Bentley established a private practice in Taylor County.

"When I came to Campbellsville, one of the first patients I cared for was a lung cancer patient," he recalled.

Bentley said doctors are trained how to prevent death, but receive almost no training on how to handle death. After his experience with that patient, Bentley learned about end of life care. When a hospice care company needed someone to oversee its operation in Adair, Green, Marion, Taylor and Washington counties, Bentley stepped into that role.

"I agreed to do it because of that one patient," he said.

Today, he remains an associate medical director for Hosparus - Central Kentucky.

Just as he has worked to serve his community by alleviating end of life pain and suffering, he has served his country in the U.S. Army Reserves as a member of the 933rd Forward Surgical Team.

Bentley said several members of his family have served in the military, and he had considered enlisting more than once, although he was discouraged from signing up before he enrolled in medical school. After 9-11, however, he called an Army Reserves recruiter and said he was ready to sign up. The recruiter started to give him the sales pitch to convince him to join when Bentley cut him off. He didn't need to be convinced; he was ready for duty.

Since joining the Army Reserves, Bentley has been deployed twice to Iraq, once to Germany and most recently to Afghanistan.

Bentley recalled treating a 17-year-old who had been left for dead after Al Qaeda had killed most of his family. Some of his sisters had survived, and as the oldest male in his household, he was now expected to lead his family.

While many individual patients made impressions on him, Bentley couldn't help being impressed by the courage of the soldiers he treated and served alongside. He fought back tears as he spoke about them.

"They work hard. They get paid little, and they really are willing to stand out there and die," he said. "They give up everything they have at home. They go over there, and their living conditions aren't that good."

And his experiences during his deployment have also benefited his patients here in central Kentucky. New medical techniques are often developed by military doctors, and those techniques are useful in Bentley's work as a trauma surgeon. In many cases, loss of life or limb is on the line when a patient has suffered trauma.

Bentley has served as the medical director for Taylor County Hospital's trauma center, which is a Level Three center. Today, he is working as the medical director for Spring View Hospital's trauma center, which intends to become the third Level Three center in Kentucky. Bentley praised the medical staff at Spring View for their work as well, saying it takes everyone to help their patients.

It's that teamwork that makes the most satisfying part of his job possible.

"It's being able to get in there, stop the bleeding, fix everything, and having the patient sit up and say, 'Thanks,'" he said.