The following story was featured in the Fall 2019 issue of the OneSpirit Magazine.
All of his life, Clint Henson planned to become a veterinarian. It was during college when an advisor recommended he apply to medical school that he changed course. Although he enjoyed all his rotations, he landed on obstetrics and gynecology. Veterinary medicine is heavily focused on the miracle of reproduction, and in medical school Dr. Henson discovered that it was the miracle of life that completely captivated him.
“It’s such a privilege to be involved with and help assist in bringing a new life into the world – it’s really a blessing that I don’t take for granted,” he says.
In 1992 after completing medical school, Dr. Henson came to Hot Springs to start his practice. He noticed quickly that many women he encountered in the hospital giving birth did not have good prenatal care – and that was impacting both mothers and babies. They were showing up with complications, and there were no records to give insight on how to best handle the situation.
“I approached the hospital about a partnership because we didn’t have the infrastructure in place to provide the help people needed. I knew we could provide much better care if we could offer free prenatal services to women in our community and southwest Arkansas,” says Dr. Henson.
“What started from humble beginnings has grown into a program that has truly made a difference – adequate prenatal care means that physicians can intervene appropriately and offer care to women who would otherwise go without it,” says Marsha Oliver, nurse manager of Women’s Services at Hot Springs.
Today the CHI St. Vincent Community Care–Pregnancy Clinic provides prenatal and obstetrical care for expectant mothers, nutritional counseling and social worker and financial counseling services to help ensure every mother has a healthy pregnancy. In addition to support and encouragement, women can also enroll in Pals in Pregnancy, an educational program that helps with diapers, wipes and key baby supplies.
As the program has matured, Dr. Henson turned his attention to other ways he could support families’ educational needs. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was the perfect way to provide educational resources to children even after they left the hospital. The Imagination Library, which mails free books to children each month from birth to age five, was inspired by Dolly’s father’s inability to read and write. Dr. Henson shared Dolly’s vision and wanted to bring the program to the children of this community. Hot Springs is the only hospital in Arkansas that automatically enrolls children in the program at birth.
“Our primary goal was to enhance the literacy of all children who are born here. The literary experts who select these book titles ensure they are appropriate for the child’s age and are designed to instill a love of reading,” says Dr. Henson.
“The statistics about the importance of early reading are clear – there’s an increasing likelihood of graduation from high school and from college. Reading really opens their world,” says Marsha. “It’s one more way we’re all working together to provide the highest level of care for mothers and babies through pregnancy, delivery and beyond.”