Doctor earns award for teaching how to help babies take their first breath
SALT LAKE CITY – A Salt Lake City pediatrician affiliated with LDS Hospital who has helped save babies around the globe is Utah’s Doctor of the Year.
Pediatrician L. Frank Bentley, MD, received the honor from the Utah Medical Association for 36 years of service to children here in Utah and for extensive humanitarian work in Africa and Latin America.
“This recognition is well-deserved,” said LDS Hospital Administrator Jim Sheets. “Dr. Bentley is dedicated to his patients here in Salt Lake and is a committed advocate for newborns in the developing world. We feel fortunate to have him as part of our team.”
For nearly a decade, Dr. Bentley has traveled abroad to teach physicians and midwives how to help babies take their first, critical breath during the “golden minute” — the first minute of life. The World Health Organization estimates that one million babies die each year from the inability to breathe immediately after delivery.
“At LDS Hospital, we have a resuscitation team that can rush in and know what to do to help a baby,” said Dr. Bentley. “But out in these developing countries, they don’t have the equipment or knowledge. They may just set a baby aside and wait to see what will happen.”
The techniques he teaches are simple and low-tech: cleaning and stimulating the baby, watching for important changes in vital signs, and using a small bag and mask to encourage breathing.
“These things are simple, but their impact is huge,” he said.
In the past decade, Dr. Bentley estimates he’s trained 600 to 700 nurses, midwives, and physicians who in turn are expected to teach the techniques to others. His work has spread to thousands, and countless babies are alive today thanks to his teachings — including one 7-year-old in Senegal who was resuscitated by Dr. Bentley and is named after his wife Jean.
The trips abroad began nearly a decade ago when Dr. Bentley and his wife decided to expose their nine children to life outside their community. The Bentleys were joined by a handful of other physicians on a trip to Senegal, where they worked on construction projects and held a clinic. Today, Dr. Bentley and his wife continue to visit nations in Africa and Latin America to teach newborn resuscitation skills as part of a humanitarian mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“Dr. Bentley is a wonderful physician and person,” said LDS Hospital nurse manager Deb Whipple, who has worked alongside Dr. Bentley both in the newborn intensive care unit (which he helped to develop) and in Kenya. “Our nurses truly enjoy working with him and respect him for the kind and compassionate care he gives to families.”
His physician peers share that respect. He was elected Utah Doctor of the Year by the Utah Medical Association Board of Trustees from nominations submitted by the county chapters of the Utah Medical Association Alliance.
“The medical knowledge he has helped spread to other lands and providers is invaluable,” said UMA President Brian Shiozawa, MD. “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?”
Dr. Bentley studied medicine at the University of Utah and completed his pediatric residency training at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. He has practiced pediatrics in Salt Lake City since 1977 and has served as president of the medical staff at Primary Children’s Medical Center. He practices at the Intermountain Memorial Clinic.
In addition to his medical work, Dr. Bentley has sung with the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, served as a Scoutmaster, speaks fluent Spanish, and continues to enjoy travel, reading, tennis, golf, basketball, boating, fishing, hiking, and camping.