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Clevenger bidding farewell after two decades at Newton Clinic


December 23, 2014

Just shy of his 20-year anniversary with Newton Clinic, Dr. Phil Clevenger is retiring.  The family practice physician will stay involved in the medical community, however, by continuing to serve as Jasper County’s medical examiner and eventually volunteering part-time with a free clinic in Des Moines.

This dedication to medicine developed during a somewhat unconventional career path.  Unlike many of his health-care colleagues, Dr. Clevenger didn’t know from an early age that he wanted to pursue the healing arts.

“I was a finance major and worked in banking for six years,” Dr. Clevenger said.  “But I learned that, unless you’re the president of the bank, you’re not necessarily going to love it.  So I decided to make a life change.”

Dr. Clevenger, who was born at Skiff Medical Center and grew up in Monroe, was living at the time in Ann Arbor, Mich., with his then-wife and their four children.  He started doing volunteer work in the local emergency department and ended up taking a job in the janitorial department of the University of Michigan Health System.

“My main role was cleaning up delivery rooms,” he said.  “I worked on the periphery of doctors and nurses and developed an interest in what they were doing.  I decided that I felt a calling to help people.”

Because financial studies aren’t a typical precursor to medical school, Dr. Clevenger spent the next three years taking his science class prerequisites before applying to and being accepted by the medical school in Des Moines, now known as Des Moines University.  He then did family practice residency at the former Des Moines General Hospital.

Dr. Clevenger’s first practice out of residency was in his original hometown of Monroe.  He began practicing there in 1983 and did so for four and a half years, before switching to a Mercy clinic for another eight years.  His move to Newton Clinic came in 1995 when Ron Ross, then-CEO of Skiff Medical Center, approached him.

“He told me that Dr. Marvin Moles was going to be retiring and the community could use an additional doctor,” he said.  “At that point, I knew the pros and cons both of being in solo practice and of working for a health system.  I liked the idea of Newton Clinic being the best of both worlds – an independent practice where I had a say in decisions, while also having colleagues to interact with and share call.”

When Dr. Clevenger joined Newton Clinic – “Dr. Moles retired on a Friday and I started that Monday,” he said – he was the seventh provider, joining Drs. Erwin Wittenberg, Paul Ruggle, Steve Hill, Pat Edwards, Orville Bunker and T.Y. Chan.  He has since seen the practice grow to include 18 providers: 13 doctors, two nurse practitioners, a physician assistant, a podiatrist and a midwife.

He attributes that growth to a number of factors.  “All of the providers offer great care,” he said.  “We have wonderful staff, a good location with our proximity to the hospital, and a good facility here.  I also think our clinic administrator, Mark Thayer, has done a great job with keeping us expanding and meeting the challenges of the continuing changes in the health-care system.”

That appreciation is mutual.  “Dr. Clevenger has been a valuable asset to Newton Clinic,” said Thayer.  “His commitment to his patients has been second to none.  He has been a passionate advocate for his patients, coworkers, Skiff Medical Center and his hometown community of Monroe.  His business background has guided the Newton Clinic and served as a contributing factor to our long-term success.”

Dr. Clevenger will be hanging up his stethoscope, as it were, on Dec. 31.  He is opting for retirement, he said, because he wants to, not because he needs to.

“I think I’m still doing a good job,” he said.  “I wanted to retire when that was the case, not because people were wanting me to leave.  It’s been a very good run.”

He isn’t concerned with staying busy.  In addition to his work as medical examiner and plans to volunteer, he also has a property business with his wife, real estate owner and broker Caren Devoe-Clevenger, and between the two of them, they have 15 grandchildren with whom he’d like to spend more time.

Thayer said that Dr. Clevenger will be missed.  “We have been lucky to have such a valuable physician within our organization for the past 20 years.”

Skiff Medical Center
204 N. 4th Ave E.
Newton, Iowa 50208
Phone: (641) 792-1273
Toll-free: (888) 792-1273

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Skiff Medical Center, a member of Mercy Health Network, is located in Newton, Iowa. We provide services to Jasper County residents in all major health areas, including general surgery, orthopedic surgery, radiology, obstetrics, emergency medicine, hospice, home care, laboratory, respiratory, audiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. The Skiff Specialty Clinic hosts more than 20 physicians specializing in cardiology, dermatology, ENT, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurology, oncology, pulmonology and urology.
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