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Mahaska Health Partnership is pleased to welcome Family Practice Physician Valerie Bonnett, MD, as the newest primary care provider in the Medical Group.

“Dr. Bonnett brings a unique perspective to primary care,” MHP CEO Jay Christensen said. “Her expansive experience and research on women’s health issues will partner well with services we offer. We’re fortunate to have her serving patients at MHP.”

Dr. Bonnett has always had a passion for helping people. “Growing up in Bussey, IA, I always dreamed of world travel,” Dr. Bonnett remembered. “I thought I would go into international missionary medicine. However, I received a great scholarship to Central (College in Pella, IA) and upon graduating, applied to the Peace Corp and the University of Iowa.

“I got accepted to Iowa. After completing my medical degree, I stayed in the state because I felt the specialty of Family Practice was well respected and I could gain more experience. My residency inspired my passion for women’s health and I’ve never stopped learning.”

Dr. Bonnett never let her Midwestern roots hinder her thirst for what lay beyond. “I’ve been to five of the seven continents. Through medical mission trips I’ve met some amazing people, learned a lot and seen some beautiful countries.”

Throughout her 20 year career, Dr. Bonnett has been influenced by her obstetrical experience, travel and vast research. She practiced in Davenport for sixteen years, at times teaching obstetrics for family practice residents; she eventually relocated back to the area to be closer to family.

“I like working with women of any age but I have specialized skills to really help women from reproductive age through menopause,” Dr. Bonnett explained. “I don’t deliver babies currently but enjoy assisting women with counseling before they conceive to help them get healthier before becoming pregnant.

“I’m a big picture thinker. I like to work with my patients to determine the root cause of issues and start there rather than masking symptoms with medication,” Dr. Bonnett stressed. “I am a strong believer in natural remedies in conjunction with traditional medicine. My patients can feel confident that I will explore every possibility that may enhance their overall health and well-being.”

Dr. Bonnett is now accepting new patients on the MHP campus in Oskaloosa. Appointments are available Mondays and Wednesday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. For an appointment call 641.672.3360.


Mahaska Health Partnership is pleased to welcome Melissa Gentry, PA-C, to its Medical Staff. Gentry is practicing in Behavioral Health Services at MHP; she most recently operated a private practice in Ottumwa.

“I’m excited to work as part of a team again,” Gentry said. “I feel my patients get better care because I can partner with other clinicians to coordinate treatment.”

Gentry found her passion for psychiatry by accident. “I started out in Family Practice and Emergency Medicine, but the organization where I worked really needed psychiatric providers. I observed for two days and fell in love,” Gentry described.

“I answered the call and completed a year-long psychiatric fellowship at the University of Iowa. I have found my personal perspective, derived from my own life experiences, has shaped my compassion and guidance for patients. I’m doing what I was meant to do.”

When asked what she enjoys most about her specialty, Gentry said connecting with patients, hearing their stories and helping them find the best version of themselves. “Few things in life give me more satisfaction than when a patient who has really been struggling responds to a treatment and the whole world opens up to them,” Gentry explained.

“Things that otherstake for granted every day become within reach,” Gentry continued. “A person can’t have health, happiness or success; they can’t accomplish anything without first caring for their mental well-being. It drives everything.”

Gentry received her Bachelor of Arts from Central College in Pella before attending Des Moines University for her Bachelor of Science and Physician Assistant Certificate. She completed her Masters of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Her first Physician Assistant position was with University of Iowa Family Care in Sigourney, IA.

“I really believe mental healthcare is for everyone: moms, dads, busy professionals, kids and adults,” Gentry stressed. “I treat anyone age four to 94 for short-term issues as well as people suffering from a severe mental health diagnoses.

“I try to be very open with my patients. I’m accepting and understanding of their needs while trying to educate on their disease, along with the expected outcomes of prescribed treatment. When my patients are well informed, they are able to take an active role in their recovery.”

Gentry is available by appointment at MHP Behavioral Health Services Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm. For an appointment, call 641.672.3159.

Indian Hills Community College will be offering a 75-hour Certified Nurse’s Aide (CNA) course, starting June 9 and ending July 28.

The classes for this course will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 8:30 pm on the MHP campus in Oskaloosa. They will be taught by Tonya Johannes, BSN, RN, MHP’s education coordinator. Johannes said clinical hours will be conducted in a local nursing home over the course of four Saturdays. Those dates are yet to be determined.

“In order for the class to go forward, we must have a minimum of six participants and a maximum of 10 participants,” Johannes said.

According to Johannes, CNAs provide valuable support in the healthcare field. “The time they spend one-on-one with patients enhances their care and experience with a health system. It’s very rewarding work and a great first step for someone interested in a career in healthcare.”

For more information or to register for the class, please contact Johannes at 642.672.3162.
Mahaska Health Partnership Behavioral Health Services will be offering Youth Mental Health First Aid Training on Friday, June 12 from 8 am to 5 pm in the Cedar Bluff Learning Center (entrance #3) on the MHP campus.

“Mental health symptoms can appear at any age,” MHP Behavioral Health Director Jan LeBahn, LISW, said. “Youth Mental Health First Aid training will help participants learn how to help youth ages 12-18 years. Teachers, first responders and other medical professionals, faith leaders and the general public will learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health problems in young people.”

LeBahn said many people experience a mental health illness at some point in their lives but every illness is different and should be treated as such. “There are many types of depression and even though they share similar symptoms, afflicted people need to be treated individually. This is also true for people who have anxiety disorders, paranoia or eating disorders. Each of these disorders is very unique and needs to be approached in a different manner, depending on the situation,” LeBahn stressed.

MHP has offered regular Mental Health First Aid classes for a number of years, and recently expanded to include a class tailored to those working with youth. “It’s important to recognize that not only are adults facing mental health symptoms, but youth are too, and how you address them varies based on their age,” LeBahn explained. “This course is designed to teach adults working with youth how to assist someone in the most effective way possible during a mental health challenge. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, psychosis, behavior disorders such as ADHD and eating disorders.

“The goal with classes such as Youth Mental Health First Aid is for the public to learn how to recognize signs and symptoms, be able to intervene and feel comfortable talking about the symptoms of mental health,” LeBahn encouraged. “If more people receive proper treatment for mental illness, the lifelong effects can be reduced.”

The cost of the class is $35 and six CEU’s will be offered. To register for Youth Mental Health First Aid training or for more information, call 641.672.3159. The deadline to register is Friday, May 29. 
Many foods found in today’s grocery stores are processed and packed with salt. While the body needs 500 mg of sodium daily to function, over-consumption can lead to many health issues. It is especially crucial to monitor your child’s salt intake to protect them from chronic health issues later on in life.

Salt is a common ingredient in many foods, some of which you may not think of. Over-consumption of salt can lead to a number of health issues throughout life, including high blood pressure. It is recommended by the USDA that everyone should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams, or about 1 teaspoon per day.

It is especially important for children to be closely monitored for excess salt intake. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), higher sodium intake in children and teens is linked to higher blood pressure, which is a leading factor for heart disease and stroke among adults. By lowering salt intake, the risk for high blood pressure can be reduced.

“The more salt a child consumes, the more they prefer it, which will lead them to higher consumption throughout life,” MHP Registered Dietitian Lea Rice stressed. “By limiting the amount of salt they have in meals you provide, you can lower their risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and stroke.”

Sodium is hiding in many everyday items people eat. “Condiments such as soy sauce, ketchup and salad dressings are usually high in sodium,” Rice explained. “Many frozen foods and pre-packaged box dinners boast high sodium content even if they claim to be healthy. It’s important to pay attention to the Nutrition Facts when making choices.”

The top culprits for salt in people aged two to nineteen are pizza, bread, poultry, cold cuts and cured meat, sandwiches, savory snacks, soups, cheese, and mixed pasta dishes.

Rice suggested cooking at home on a regular basis to avoid excess salt. “I understand how hectic life has become for the average family. Even if it’s putting something together and leaving it in the slow-cooker all day, you can control the ingredients and reduce your family’s salt intake.”

Eating fresh and incorporating more fruits and vegetables was another tip offered by Rice. “The less your food is processed, the more control you have. Consider trying new herbs for seasoning, rather than salt. Garlic, vinegar, lemon juice or no-salt seasoning mixes are great tools for beginners to try out. There’s no better time than right now to modify your family’s eating habits. The trick is to create a plan that’s individualized to your specific needs.”

As a Registered Dietitian, Rice provides one-on-one consultations to teach healthy eating habits. She works with patients of all ages and tailors her recommendations to their personal needs. To schedule a consultation with Rice, call 641.672.3303. 
Mahaska Health Partnership has been named a 2015 HOSPICE HONORS™ recipient, a prestigious award recognizing hospices across the country for providing the best patient care as rated by the patient’s caregiver.

“We are the only Hospice service in the state to receive this award for 2015; it’s our third year in a row being recognized,” MHP Director of Home Health and Hospice Services Jean Gibson, RN, CHPN exclaimed.

The HOSPICE HONORS™ award is given by Detya, LLC, an industry leader in data driven management. Deyta used survey results compiled from patient’s family’s evaluation of hospice care to determine the recipients of this prestigious award. Award criteria were based on the survey results for an evaluation period of October 2013 through September 2014. Deyta identified award recipients by evaluating hospices’ performance on a set of 18 satisfaction indicator measures.

“This award exemplifies the dedication our Hospice team has to patient care,” Gibson shared. “We strive to provide the highest quality of care and support to patients and their families so they might live as fully and comfortably as possible during this stage of life. This award shows that we are continuing to meet this goal and improving through feedback from families.”

This year, MHP’s Hospice Services was the only program in Iowa to receive the HOSPICE HONORS™ award. “I couldn’t be more proud of our staff and the high level of care they continue to provide,” Gibson shared. “I am honored to work with such dedicated professionals who provide hospice care in both Mahaska and Keokuk counties.”

MHP Hospice Services offers skilled nursing for those with progressive and life-threatening illness in homes, long-term care facilities, hospital settings and the MHP Hospice Serenity House. Nurses are on-call 24 hours per day, seven days a week for the comfort and peace of mind of our patients and their families. For more information about Hospice Services, please call 641.672.3260.


Do you experience pain in your legs while exercising that doesn’t go away? Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) may be the cause. Mahaska Health Partnership Family Nurse Practitioner Jen Scott has experience treating cardiac and vascular issues such as PAD.

“Leg pain is commonly dismissed as a normal sign of aging but that’s not always the case,” Jen Scott, ARNP-C stressed. “For an accurate diagnosis, consider the source of your pain. PAD causes discomfort in the muscle, not in the joint.”

Scott said people with PAD have increased risk for heart attack and stroke. “PAD causes a narrowing of the arteries to the legs, stomach, arms and head. The most common symptoms are pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles during physical exertion such as exercising, walking or climbing stairs.

“This is caused by plaque buildup in the arteries,” Scott continued. “The plaque formations can grow large enough to significantly reduce the blood’s flow. When a plaque formation becomes brittle or inflamed, it may rupture, triggering a blood clot to form.”

According to the American Heart Association, untreated PAD can lead to painful symptoms or loss of a leg. Patients often have an increased risk of coronary artery disease, stroke and heart attack. Symptoms of PAD include leg pain that does not go away when you stop exercising; foot or toe wounds that won’t heal or heal slowly; gangrene or a marked decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot, particularly compared to your other leg or the rest your body.

“Certain risk factors for PAD cannot be controlled such as aging, family history and cardiovascular disease,” Scott said. “However, smoking; controlling your weight; and properly managing diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol are all things a person can do to help lower their risk.”

Scott worked in cardiothoracic surgery and vascular medicine at the Iowa Heart Center before transitioning to Family Practice in 2013. Prior to completing her Nurse Practitioner education, Scott worked as an RN at the Iowa Heart Centerin Des Moines. “I worked in vascular surgery but when I graduated, they only had a nurse practitioner opening in cardiothoracic surgery; so I’m well versed in the ‘plumbing and the engine’ of the heart,” Scott quipped.

“I loved my work at the Iowa Heart Center but it’s nice to apply what I learned on the emergency side to the day-to-day care of my patients in a family practice setting,” Scott said.

Scott is now accepting new patients on the MHP campus in Oskaloosa. She treats patients of all ages from birth to end-of-life and has a special interest in children and people dealing with cardiac issues. For an appointment, call 641.672.3360.


Four MHP Nurses were honored as members of the 100 Great Iowa Nurses 2015 at a special ceremony May 3 in Des Moines. The Iowa Nurses Association, Iowa Nurses Foundation and the University of Iowa College of Nursing collaborate each year to create this list, and this year had close to 400 nominations from across the state. Shown, from left: MHP Chief Executive Officer Jay Christensen; Inpatient Nurse Patty Waters, BSN, RN; Education Coordinator Tonya Johannas, BSN, RN;  Birthing Center Nurse Arlene Vonk, RN;  Medical Group Nursing Supervisor Ashley Perkins, RN;  and Chief Nursing Officer Darlene Keuning.