Dr. John E. Bell

Dr. Marrissa Dick | July 16th, 2018
Dr. John E. Bell (Photos by Clear Water Images)

Dr. John E. Bell (Photos by Clear Water Images)

Who do you get when you combine a Surgical Podiatrist, a 1991 United States Navy Gulf War Veteran, a Soulful R&B Recording Artist, a Director and Producer of Award Winning Independent Films, an author, and someone who mirrors the motto of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated, “Culture for Service and Service for Humanity?” Exactly, you get Dr. John E. Bell, CEO of Excelsior Podiatry Clinic LLC in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Bell specializes in limb salvage and the prevention of amputation for those who suffer from lower limb complications due to diabetes and other foot and ankle ailments. According to Dr. Bell, “Basically what I do is prevent limb loss. When patients have poor circulation, diabetics in particular, they can develop ulcerations and experience all kinds of issues associated with lack of healthy blood flow to their limbs. As a board-certified podiatrist I specialize in diabetic limb ailments, provide foot and ankle pain relief associated with joint pain from various forms of arthritis, and I also treat your more common foot ailments from ingrown nails to contracted digits to ulcers, and bunions.”

Parents and teachers often ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Often times children have an answer ready. Most shout a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher or maybe even an athlete. If someone had asked Dr. Bell that question he may not have had any of those aspirations because his most immediate thoughts centered around living in abject poverty with his single mother and siblings.

He shares, “My father died when I was really young leaving my mother a single parent. She worked very hard to raise us as best she could but those living conditions were not thriving. We knew poverty and the projects, and we didn’t have most things. I knew early on what it was like to be an African American male living in an urban and decaying city, so my focus wasn’t necessarily on what I wanted to be when I grew up. In truth, I really struggled in school. My thoughts were mostly on wondering if I was going to make it out of my circumstance. Realistically, I only had two options. I either was going to make it out of that environment or I wasn’t. There was no grey area or middle ground for me. What I did know was that I didn’t want to fail, and I carry that same thought process with me today. I still don’t want to fail. I do everything to the best of my ability so I’m accountable to myself, not to anyone else. I’m my own critic when it comes to achieving personal goals because I hold myself to a higher standard that I’ve set for my personal life. Maybe it’s because of my primary years, but I just believe that there’s always room for improvement in everything I do. I’m anti-ignorant and I’m also anti-cultural genocide of urban communities.” The late and great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once declared, “Whatever your life’s work is do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.” I’m sure Dr. Bell’s patients would agree that he is indeed holding true to this civil rights leader’s mantra.

What was it that could have caused a young man to finally decide that he wanted to become a surgical podiatrist? According to Dr. Bell, “As soon as I graduated from high school in 1989 I enlisted in the United States Navy, so I could serve my country and tour the world. Then two years later it wasn’t just drills anymore. My ship was the first to be employed in the Gulf War because we were on the coast of Kuwait. I’ll never forget it for as long as I live. My captain said, “This is not a drill all hands, man your battle stations! This is not a drill!” And before I knew it everything that I had been trained to do automatically kicked in – – I had been trained for war but I never really thought I’d actually be in one. It became more and more real for me every time a tomahawk left the ship. I’ll never ever forget the sound or the feel of it because every time a tomahawk was fired the entire ship would rock. Can you imagine being 19 years old in the midst of a war? I knew if I could survive where I grew up and this war then I knew in my heart there had to be a special calling on my life. I promised myself that if I lived through this moment I was going to make something of myself. I mean death was knocking at my door; it was coming for me, but I had no intentions of answering it. I made up my mind that night that I was going to survive. I can’t explain to you how it feels when you can hear your own heart beating in your ears because of fear. I lived through all of that so I’m no longer afraid of death. Thank God the war was over, and I lived through it. After that I decided to enroll in an online sociology course and I earned an A which really motivated me because I struggled academically in high school. After that school became the springboard for my life.”

Dr. Bell’s initial experience with death is part of the reason he desires to help others live a purposeful and healthy life. “I became a doctor because I like to help people heal. I hate seeing someone in pain. I love the physical interaction of health care and I also love the fact that a patient can come into my practice with a wound or a lesion and leave out feeling better than when they came in.” His four clinics offer the state of the art ultrasound technology for diagnosing joint inflammation, plantar fasciitis, and tendonitis along with other problems. His practices also house a Nerve Conduction Study Unit for diagnosing peripheral neuropathy due to Diabetic Neuropathy and trauma and nerve loss. His clinics also offer the Arterial Doppler Machine which measures the Ankle Brachial Index and tests for peripheral vascular disease of the lower limb. Dr. Bell also performs Electrocorporal heel shock therapy (ESWT) which is a noninvasive therapeutic procedure to help with heel pain. Most of these procedures can be performed in his office or can be done on an outpatient basis which is more conducive for his patients. Notwithstanding, Dr. Bell also offers front line educational prevention to his patients. He shares, “I really enjoy my job because I’m protecting my community by helping to lower the percentage rate of amputations and limb loss. You know I believe if you don’t love humanity and you don’t love everyone that God created then you’re just not going to do very well. So, I pray daily for my passion to increase for the compassion of others. I am passionate about helping everyone because medicine is not just a Black issue, it’s not a White issue, it’s not a Latin or even an Asian issue. I’m a firm believer in 3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth,” so I aspire to do the best I can on a daily basis to help others.

After traveling the world and America what made him settle on Tennessee? “After I did my surgical training I received a letter from Tennessee stating that they were looking for a surgical podiatrist for this area. All four of my practices are centered in the tri-state area between Memphis, Mississippi, and Arkansas. I feel good in knowing that over the past 15 years I’ve made an impact in reducing the number of health-related amputations plaguing these rural communities.”

With so many patients and practices it seems almost impossible that he would have time to pursue any personal endeavors but that thought would be a mistake. Dr. Bell finds time to thoroughly enjoy all facets of his life from being a R&B recording artist to directing and producing award winning independent films. He shares, “I work hard as a physician but that’s not all that I am. I’m also a father and an uncle and I love my family dearly. I’ve actually been able to travel internationally on music tours and I’ve had a lot of fun doing that. I fully believe in fulfilling your dreams. I’m always the doctor though because where ever I am I always promote health because that’s vitally important.”

Dr. Bell is a 2003 graduate of Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine in Independence, Ohio., and a Member of the Bluff City Medical Society in Memphis, TN. His hospital affiliations are with Saint Francis-Bartlett Hospital, Methodist South Fayette Hospital, Bolivar General Hospital, the Med Regional Hospital in Memphis, TN and also the McNairy Regional hospital in Selmer, TN. Dr. Bell is Board Certified by the American Board of Lower Extremity Surgery and is a Member of American Podiatric Medical Association and the Tennessee Podiatric Medical Associations, respectively. He has one daughter and resides in the Greater Metro area of West Tennessee.

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