Dr. Robert Bentley, a Tuscaloosa Dermatologist, is set to launch a series of single-day clinics targeting areas of the state with no or limited access to a physician. The first of these unique clinics is set for Friday, February 1 in Pickens County.
“There are so many pockets across our state mainly in rural areas where people have little or no access to a board certified dermatologist,” said Bentley. By offering free, single-day clinics in those areas we are helping to eliminate those geographic and economic obstacles.” The clinics are aimed at serving people who not only need to see a dermatologist, but who are also uninsured or underinsured.
An over 40-year board certified physician, Dr. Bentley took time off from practicing medicine for seven years to serve in public service. Returning to private practice in June 2017, he says, gave him a fresh perspective on patient needs. “ I was actually taken aback by the level of severity of the cases we saw when we opened the practice in 2017. Patients had simply been neglecting to see a doctor for whatever reason, sometimes they didn’t even have insurance and some just couldn’t get access to a dermatologist.” Throughout 2017 Dr. Bentley held a series of free skin cancer screenings and as a result over two dozen skin cancers were detected, including melanoma. Seeing those results helped Dr. Bentley develop the idea of conducting a full clinic for more areas in Alabama.
“If we could accomplish what we did in the free skin cancer screenings when insurance and cost were taken out of the equation, imagine what we can diagnose and treat if we do a full Derm clinic,” Bentley said. “That is why we really want to offer this for those people who don’t have insurance or can’t afford to pay to see a Specialist.”
Access to healthcare has long been an issue in Alabama, particularly in the state’s rural regions. An even greater issue is the lack of access to quality healthcare in specialty fields such as Dermatology.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there are eight areas in Alabama with zero access to a nearby Dermatologist. The state has more geographic gaps than any neighboring southeastern state. Dr. Bentley will lead the project through his practice, Dermatology Care of Alabama, to bring the clinical dermatology services to those underserved areas. Over his four decades as a physician, Dr. Bentley has conducted similar single-day clinics in west Alabama. The project’s goal is to replicate that service in the state’s eight main underserved regions as a first step in increasing accessibility for patients.
The project is aiming to utilize and partner with regional hospitals in the rural areas to host the free clinics. The Pickens County clinic is held in partnership with the Pickens County Medical Center.
*”Analysis of Trends in Geographic Distribution and Density of US Dermatologists” JAMA Dermatology, April 2017