Springfield, MO

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Director, Department of Public Health and Welfare for Springfield and Greene County. On March 3, 1867, a city ordinance was passed establishing a separate department of health. On Oct. 10, 1923, the city and Greene County acquired the services of a visiting nurse. In 1924 the visiting nurse position was established within the Department of Health. In 1957, the city and county signed an agreement whereby the director of health for the city would serve as director of health for Greene County. In 1976, all employees of the Springfield and Greene County health departments were consolidated into a Department of Public Health and Welfare, operating under the merit system of the city of Springfield. Bengsch's association with the department began Feb. 9, 1959. His professional affiliations include the International Association of Milk, Food and Environmental Sanitarians, the American Public Health Association, the Missouri Public Health Association, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the National Environmental Health Association, and Missouri Association of Milk, Food and Environmental Sanitarians, Missouri Association of Professional Sanitarians and the Missouri Association of Local Health Officials.

Age: 63.

No. of years in Springfield area: 41.

Education: Graduated from Billings High School 1953; bachelor's degree from Southwest Missouri State University in 1958; master's degree in public health, University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Medicine, 1983; also has a variety of advanced study certificates.

Early career: First job was at age 8, driving a mule team and milking cows on the family farm southeast of Billings. Began working as a laboratory technician at the Springfield Health Department in 1959. The health department has been his employer ever since. He has been bacteriologist, director of laboratories, chief of environmental hygiene, director of environmental health services, assistant director of health and director of public health and welfare, a position he began in 1983. Bengsch said during his 40 years of public health work, each decade has provided a memorable event that influenced his career. The 1960s saw a major focus on air and water pollution, which resulted in an expansion of building and lab capacity to adequately deal with the "vastly expanded analytical responsibility." This was the decade when Bengsch became director of laboratories. In the 1970s, Bengsch confronted the quarry fire at East Trafficway and National, a major environmental crisis. He is now involved with the same property, and is looking at how it can be integrated into Civic Park. In the early 1980s, Bengsch was challenged with educating the public about AIDS. He credits the Springfield community for its leadership in collaborations. "This makes my job fun. Coupled with a supportive city and county administration, this community is recognized as having one of the most progressive health departments in the state," Bengsch said.

Current projects: There are 10 focus areas the department is collaborating on with the Advocates for a Healthy Community: the aging of our population; lack of information/data; lack of insurance or insufficient resources to pay for health care; emergency room abuse or over-utilization; tobacco use; alcohol and substance abuse; motor vehicle crashes/deaths; violence and child abuse; emergency pathogens/drug resistance and communicable diseases including STDs and HIV; and population-based preventive health measures.

Management philosophy: "Hire qualified employees, motivate by example, assure adequate resources, both physical and technical, including continuous training opportunities, and get out of their way," Bengsch said. He encourages problem solving through teamwork, employing the principles of continuous quality improvement.

Spare-time pursuits: Serves his church as director of music and teaching an adult Bible study class. Enjoys gardening, hiking, wildlife and landscape photography.

Family data: Bengsch has been married to Darlene for 41 years. Two daughters, Meschiel Lankford and Kana Melton, and four grandchildren, Chris and Sarah Lankford, and Sasha and Landen Melton.

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