King’s Daughters will always have a special place in Melissa Connelly
Behnke’s heart. After all, she practically grew up there.
A daughter of obstetrician and gynecologist Edward Connelly, Melissa came
to Ashland at the tender age of 3. She has fond memories of walking to
work with her father. Sometimes as a special treat, they enjoyed lunch
at a deli near the hospital. She remembers menu items named for local
physicians; her favorite being the Ray Burger, a tasty hamburger with
cole slaw and ketchup. It was named for anesthesiologist Hugh Ray.
“My dad had his own dish: Connelly Eggs, which was scrambled eggs
with cheese, but it wasn’t as good as the burger,” she says
with a smile, reliving childhood memories.
Today, Melissa works to give back to a community she dearly loves. By serving
on the Patient Family Centered Care committee at King’s Daughters,
she and other volunteers advise about specific projects that directly
affect patients: hospital signs, parking, billing and safety.
She hopes her role as a patient advisor helps carry out what she learned
early in her nursing career — to put the patient first and encourage
them to be active participants in their care. In the last 30 years, she
says healthcare has shifted focus away from the patient as technology
A registered nurse, clinical nurse specialist and nursing educator, Melissa
says she has seen healthcare come full circle. “We are slowly seeing
priorities placed back to the patient and their needs. A patient and their
family’s perspective is a key component in providing quality care.”
Melissa vividly remembers how healthcare used to be. “My dad was
always very busy and patients loved him because of his kindness and compassion,”
she says, adding having four daughters of his own probably helped. “He
worked day and night delivering 15,000 babies in Ashland during his 30-year
Keeping the love of medicine in the family, Melissa married ear, nose and
throat surgeon Ernest Behnke, who practiced at King’s Daughters
for more than 30 years. The couple, who raised three children together,
have made significant contributions to King’s Daughters and the
health of the entire community. When he came to the medical center, only
50 physicians were on staff. Today, hundreds provide care. Ernie, one
of the first physicians in eastern Kentucky to perform endoscopic sinus
surgery and head and neck surgery, today the retired surgeon he travels
Kentucky, providing care as a hearing and vision specialist to children.
“I think my Ernie would still be a surgeon today if healthcare hadn’t
changed so much,” she admits. “But he loves what he does.”
Remembering her mother’s role in the KDMC auxiliary and Red Cross
and later as a nursing student, Melissa believes her example instilled
the calling in her at a young age. Melissa volunteered as a candy striper
and in housekeeping at King’s Daughters. Ultimately she became the
only Connelly child to pursue a career in medicine. But still, her family
tree is full of dentists, physicians and nurses.
“My grandmother used to say, ‘There are 56 doctors in our family
— that’s including you Behnk!’ referring to Ernie,”
Melissa said while laughing.
Although she never worked in nursing at King’s Daughters, she has
been a patient. “Through my advisory role, I am proud to have a
forum where I can express ideas for improving care,” she said. “It
is my job to see through the eyes of our most vulnerable.”
She hopes to help King’s Daughters build on an already solid foundation
so future generations can reap its benefits.
“I remember the hospital being so small as a child and now look at
it!” she said. “It remains the center of our community and
I am proud to be a part of its history and future.”
“Melissa is so dedicated and such an integral part of the advisory
council. She is deeply rooted in King’s Daughters and in bettering
the healthcare experience for all,” says Jane McClelland, patient
If you’re interested in being a Patient Family Centered Care advisor,