Internists, pediatricians and surgeons had offices in Oyster Bay in 1978, but there weren’t any family medicine physicians. After William J. Bennett, who did his residency at Glen Cove Hospital, he saw an opportunity to open an office on West Main Street. He never left, and said he is pleased and proud to be celebrating his 40th year in Oyster Bay. When asked why he is still practicing, Bennett, now 72, was quick to reply. “I love this. There is no better way to utilize your intelligence and compassion than practicing medicine and, in the process, you can improve your own life through continued learning and continued contact with people.”
Bennett’s waiting room is often filled with patients. Sonan Kayserian, Bennett’s secretary for the past 15 years, can usually be found quietly working, inputting information into a computer. “Dr. Bennett is extremely compassionate and knowledgeable,” she said. “He takes time with his patients and they love him. And he takes pride in helping them.”
When Bennett started his practice there were two pharmacies in town, Snouders Drug Store, which has been shuttered for many years, and Sagamore Pharmacy, now a CVS. Bennett lived in Bayville, where he stayed for 37 years, before moving to Huntington five years ago. With his new practice came a decision to become entrenched in the Oyster Bay community. Although he can’t remember when he was a firefighter with Atlantic Steamer Fire Company or a member of the Lions Club, he is certain that they were good experiences. It wasn’t common to advertise in the 1970’s, he said, so knowing people personally in town was of great assistance in building his practice.
He came to Oyster Bay with experience and some cash too. He was also working as the Nassau County Deputy Medical Examiner, which he continued to do until 1980. And he was employed by Harborfields School District in Greenlawn and Madonna Heights Group Residence in Huntington in 1978 as the school physician. He left those positions in 1988.
Doctoring ran in the family. His father, William L. Bennett, an internist, had been a family doctor in Huntington retiring in 1977, which is where the family lived. But when Bennett went to Providence College, he had no intention of becoming a doctor initially majoring in history, but soon he switched to science. Upon graduation in 1967, he decided to go to medical school. The competition for entrance was tough, he said, as it is today. Bennett was accepted by schools in Mexico and Italy and decided on the latter, attending Universita Degli Studi di Bologna.
There was only one hurdle. Although he is half Italian, Bennett didn’t speak a work of the language. “I had to learn Italian when I got there,” he said, smiling. “The classes and exams were all in Italian. It took me a year to learn it.”
But it wasn’t as hard as people might think, he added. He socialized with Italian medical students to practice the language and went to the movies too. When he returned home in 1973, he had no trouble securing a residency at Glen Cove Hospital.
In 1989 North Shore Hospital purchased Glen Cove Hospital. Bennett was asked to work there full time to teach hospital medicine to residents. He stayed on the job until 1999, running the inpatient medical teaching services at the hospital, while continuing his private practice in Oyster Bay. In 1999 he became the hospital’s program director. Bennett said he’s always loved teaching and has enjoyed the changes at the hospital, which went from a small health system to one that is huge. Today he also teaches at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell as an assistant professor of family medicine.
Once Bennett went full time at Glen Cove Hospital his own practice changed too. He converted it to a multi physician office and used it to train medical students and residents. He now also trains nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
Dr. Andrea Dory was hired to practice at Bennett’s office in 2015. She did her residency at his office and graduated from the Hofstra Northwell Family Medicine program at Glen Cove Hospital. “I enjoyed it here when I was in my residency,” she said. “So, I came back.”
It’s important for physicians to keep current, Bennett said, and with the massive increase of information and technology that can be challenging. “We have tremendous amounts of research providing us with a number of ways to treat a patient and the internet provides information to patients,” he said.
Sometimes they come in with their own diagnosis, which he believes is good. Patients demand more of a doctor, he said, and ask questions too. “The more questions you ask the more attentive a doctor needs to be,” he explained. “Patients who are well informed do better.”
Being a doctor isn’t always easy, Bennett said. For one thing, doctors find it challenging to spend the appropriate amount of time with patients because of an increased demand for documentation. “There are more choices now of medication, procedures and diagnostics,” he said. “And the insurance companies place so many limitations and requirements on physicians which aren’t uniform.”
Bennett is board certified in Geriatric Medicine by the American Board of Family Medicine/Geriatric Medicine. Geriatrics, a subspecialty is an important field, he said, which needs doctors. “There are a lot of changes we are facing with the aging, including how we should deal with end of life care,” he said. “Some studies show that 30 percent of a person’s income is spent in the last few months of their life.”
Although his Oyster Bay practice is cradle to grave, Bennett only takes care of adults. But he has four other family medicine physicians and one gynecologist now on staff to ensure coverage for all patients.
Doctors entering the profession today are computer savvy and want group learning, Bennett said. But the primary difference between younger and older doctors he believes is personality. “Because of electronics we may see some erosion of physicians that are able to communicate with patients,” he said.
Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are important professions in the future of healthcare, he said. “They can’t replace physicians because they [NP and PS] don’t have the education or experience,” he said. “But some things they can do just as well, like if a patient has diabetes. A nurse practitioner can discuss diet, exercise and proper use of medications.”
And nurse practitioners and physician assistants are needed, he added because in today’s medical environment a doctor’s time is limited.
“The future of medicine is team based with doctors hopefully being the leaders,” he said. “The teams will include social workers and psychologists for example.”
His wife of 32 years, Nancy, has been working with him since they married. She had worked at Glen Cove Hospital as a secretary for eight years before joining her husband in Oyster Bay.
When asked how Bennett’s office differs from other doctor’s offices, she smiled. “We are family oriented and know our patients like we know our family,” she said. “That makes our patients comfortable here.”