College of Health Sciences Emerita Professor of Physical Therapy Education Donna Redman-Bentley, PT, PhD, has retired after 20 years of service at WesternU. She oversaw the Department of Physical Therapy Education transition from a master’s program to a doctoral program, then served as a catalyst and mentor in advancing research in her college and interprofessionally with other disciplines as the Associate Dean of Research for the College of Health Sciences.
Redman-Bentley joined the College of Health Sciences in 1998 as Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy Education.
“One of my first tasks was to move us to the doctoral level,” she said. “Most of what I did early on was curriculum development and trying to expand the program. Physical therapists wanted to have direct access to be able to see and start treating patients without a physician referral.”
In those days, a person with a back injury would see their family practitioner, who might treat the condition conservatively for six months, then send the patient to an orthopedist when the pain got worse.
“So the profession got to the point where they said we need to be able to see these patients sooner. We need to have a better education so we can at least recognize red flags in things outside of our scope and not just treat a patient without knowing all of this,” Redman-Bentley said. “I think one of the main reasons we were pushing to get to the doctoral level was so we would be prepared to handle patients coming to us directly.”
The first entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy class graduated from CHS in 2006. Redman-Bentley served as chair of the department until 2006, when College of Health Sciences Dean Stephanie Bowlin, EdD, PA, DFAAPA, tapped her to become Associate Dean of Research for the college.
“She can break down research to a level that everyone can understand,” Bowlin said. “Before she became Associate Dean for Research, there was no real champion of research in the college. Without a champion, research would fall by the wayside. Without her, the college would not be this far ahead in research.”
Redman-Bentley said she never had a research mentor. She learned by doing, by taking additional statistics classes and through observation and working with other physical therapy and physician assistant faculty. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) requires all PT faculty to be involved in research.
“I wanted to be able to help the faculty do research and set an agenda for their own line of research,” Redman-Bentley said. “That was my primary goal — to be able to mentor faculty in research and increase the research productivity in the college.”
Redman-Bentley began working on WesternU’s interprofessional education curriculum in 2006-07 and connected with colleagues in other colleges for research projects. One interprofessional collaboration compared physical therapy and osteopathic manipulative treatment for vertigo.
“I just like the mental challenge because it really makes you think about what you’re doing,” Redman-Bentley said. “As I was teaching evidence-based practice courses to post-professional students, one of the things I kept telling them was (that) as a clinician you need to think like a researcher. I think research helps you problem solve and be aware of the data you collect. The questions you come up with trying to work with a patient parallel so much of what you do as a researcher.”
Redman-Bentley retired effective July 1, 2018 with prompting for her husband, Tom Bentley Jr. The past year has been so busy she hasn’t really made retirement plans.
“I just have a lot at home to catch up on,” she said. “He’s always been very supportive and he helps out in whatever way he can.”
Redman-Bentley and her husband are big supporters of CHS, Bowlin said. They established a $20,000 endowed scholarship to support research, and they attend most college and university events.
“We’re grateful for his support of Donna, allowing her to stay late and eating Carl’s Jr. that she brings home for dinner,” Bowlin said of Tom Bentley.
Redman-Bentley said her commute from Banning to Pomona has gotten really heavy the past six or seven years. She would plug her cell phone into the charger, turn on her Bluetooth and call Tom as she left WesternU. He looked online at traffic and found her the best way to get home.
“We just talk. That way I don’t notice the traffic when it’s bumper to bumper. He guides me home,” Redman-Bentley said. “If I’m really late, I say, ‘What do you want for dinner?’”
Redman-Bentley said she will miss working with students and her colleagues.
“I guess what I’ll miss is not sitting in my office, working, having faculty walk in and ask, ‘Do you have a few minutes?’” Redman-Bentley said. “Sitting down, discussing research with them.”
Bowlin said she will miss Redman-Bentley’s ability to complete every task on time and with high quality.
“One time on a plane we were talking about curriculum. She pulled out a napkin and wrote the curriculum on a napkin. We put it into effect when we got back,” Bowlin said. “She’s absolutely brilliant. When you give her a task, she’ll complete it perfectly.”