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    Elton D. Lehman, DO: Country Doctor of the Year 1998


    "I've handed over the clinic keys to my son ... but I can't hang up my stethoscope. There are too many patients who have no doctor to make house calls, to stitch their lacerations, or to bandage their wounds. After all, that is Christ's call—to live a life of service, witness, and ministry."
    —excerpted from House Calls and Hitching Posts, p. 354

    Dr. Lehman's first visitor this afternoon is a young child brought to the clinic by her grandmother. (All photos copyright 2005 Patricia Gallinek)
    From 1964, when Wain Eberly, DO, first invited Elton D. Lehman, DO, to practice in Mount Eaton, Ohio, to the late 1970s, when Nolan Byler, DO, joined the team, to 1998 when his son Brent Lehman, MD, came on board, Dr. Lehman's philosophy has been the same: To find a need and try to fill it.

    Dr. Lehman continues to make frequent rounds at the Mount Eaton Care Center, which he helped to establish in 1984. He has delivered over 6,300 babies during his career.
    This mantra has served him well throughout his personal and professional life. Graduating from Eastern Mennonite University in 1958 with a BS in Biology and from Midwest University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1963, Dr. Lehman completed an internship at Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital the following year. Originally anticipating working further away from his hometown of Kidron, Ohio, this country doctor settled into practice in Mount Eaton just 5 or 6 miles from where he grew up, intending to help Dr. Eberly for only 4 or 5 years. That was four decades ago.

    A young Amish girl is intrigued by the camera during her lunch at school.
    Immersing himself in the culture and the traditions of the Amish people of Wayne and Stark Counties, he has adapted to their simple ways, respecting their religious convictions and learning a thing or two in the process. "I believe my patients have influenced me more than I have influenced them," he admits, noting that "they still listen to what Grandma says and try the home remedies—like kerosene—first, coming in for care only when necessary. They are a stoic and remarkable people who I am proud to call my friends."

    On a regular basis, Dr. Lehman also volunteers his services at the Startzman Free Clinic in Wooster, Ohio.
    During his full-time practice, he would usually get up around 5:30 a.m., go to the hospital and make rounds, return to the office by 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. for morning hours, then take a little break. Meal times—be it lunch or dinner—were often filled with house calls. Seeing more patients in the afternoon, he usually held evening hours from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., frequently working 80 hours a week. Emergencies, typically from injuries sustained on the farms, were common, as were calls from patients in labor. Delivering over 6,300 babies since beginning his practice, Dr. Lehman quickly learned to expect the unexpected—navigating blizzard conditions on dump trucks, fire trucks, and buggies, and even discovering rare blood factors during pregnancy.

    Church, family, harmony, and health—this couple celebrates 50 years of marriage together. "Our home will always be our gathering place."
    In addition to treating Amish and "English" patients in the role of "Doc," he serves as medical director of the Mount Eaton Care Center, Ohio's first freestanding birthing center that he helped establish in 1984. Involved in every aspect of the community, Dr. Lehman was medical director of Country Lawn Nursing Home for over a quarter of a century, exiting the position in 1990; the assistant Wayne County coroner for 8 years; Mount Eaton Village councilman for 11 years; and mayor for 15, ending his term in 1999. "Just as I have had good help in the office, I handpicked my council when I was mayor. I am not afraid to delegate responsibilities to those who can do them better than I could. I had the best council in the world."


    Patricia Stille Lederman
    Patricia Stille Lederman is editor-in-chief of LocumLife and Healthcare Traveler.