From his earliest days as an altar boy, Eagle Scout and later as a student at Jesuit High School in Dallas, Dr. Ted Benke was always comfortable in uniform. So it was only natural that after graduating from Baylor with a degree in biology, he’d accept an Air Force scholarship to attend medical school in return for a few years of service. It meant, after all, another uniform.
But it was years earlier that Benke first began pondering becoming a doctor one day. In high school he volunteered 100 hours at Dallas’ Scottish Rite Hospital. During three summers while in college he worked as an orderly at Dallas’ Presbyterian Hospital.
“The first two summers I assisted the nurses with patient care giving bed baths and changing bedpans,” Benke said. “The third summer, I learned to scrub and hold retractors in the operating room, which got me thinking about becoming a surgeon.”
After college he worked as a phlebotomist at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital and as a lab research technician at UT Southwestern. The medical school acceptance letter came one year later. Benke married his college sweetheart, Maureen, and the couple moved to Galveston, where he attended UT Medical Branch and she taught elementary school until the first of their four children was born.
“I was initially interested in being a family doctor,” Benke said. “But, after doing an ENT [Ear, Nose and Throat] rotation, I liked the idea of a specialty niche.”
So the Benkes moved to Missouri where he did his surgical internship and otolaryngology residency at the University of Missouri-Columbia Hospital and Clinics, and their next two children were born.
His training now complete, Benke was ready to serve his country in the Air Force.
“The assignment’s guy asked me where I wanted to go, and I told him ‘overseas,’” Benke said. “So he sent me to Minot AFB, North Dakota.”
Benke said his family has fond memories of their time in North Dakota, despite the sub-zero temperatures and having to plug in their car to a block heater every night just so it would start in the mornings.
After two cold winters, Benke got his wish and the Air Force sent him to RAF Lakenheath, England, a base 80 miles from London.
“We loved our time in England,” Benke said. “The British doctors embraced us, and we did surgeries together and even taught courses together.”
One of the courses Benke collaborated on with some British doctors was teaching anatomy to students at Cambridge University, an experience that opened the doors for other Air Force doctors to interact with their host nation colleagues.
But when his three year tour of duty was over, Benke traded in his Air Force uniform for private practice back in the States. Only this time, when Benke, his wife, and now four kids and their Old English Sheepdog Ollie made the trip home to Texas, they weren’t quite sure where to go.
“When I was in medical school we’d drive from Galveston home to Dallas through all the small towns and think, ‘One day we’ll open a practice in a small town,’” Benke said. “In searching for a small town, I got out the Texas map and drew a circle around the Metroplex area and discovered that Johnson County had no full-time ENT doctor. The hospital was a similar size to the one in North Dakota, and I liked that, so we opened our practice at Walls in October 2000.”
Benke said he also likes the convenience of having an office next door to the hospital so he’s able to check on his patients after surgery.
The specialty of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (ENT) is grouped into four broad areas: General ENT, which involves tonsils and allergies, snoring and sleep apnea and vocal cord problems; Head and Neck surgery, which includes thyroid nodules, neck masses and salivary gland problems; Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, which includes skin cancer removal/reconstruction, nasal reconstruction, and cosmetic surgery; and Otology, which deals with ear problems, including dizziness, and vertigo.
Benke said he enjoys living in Cleburne because the town is small enough that people can get involved. He is active in Rotary, Boy Scouts, and he often participates in Carnegie shows with his family. The Benkes attend Cleburne Bible Church, where he plays guitar on the Praise Team and teaches Sunday School for 4 & 5-year olds.
“I believe that medicine is my calling,” Benke said. “My practice is my passion and my place of ministry and service. I love my staff and my patients, and am grateful that I get to do what I do everyday.”
For more information or an appointment, call Dr. Benke at (817) 774-3929 or see his website at drbenke.com