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

Elementary school children help out in the cafeteria.
Accepting positions on other boards and retaining membership in several professional and religious organizations, Dr. Lehman has been awarded numerous accolades for his unfailing care and compassion to those in need. Nineteen-hundred and ninety-eight was a particularly good year—he not only received the Country Doctor of the Year award from Staff Care, Inc., but also was given the Shining Light Award from the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Wayne & Holmes County and touted as the Alumnus of the Year from Eastern Mennonite University, Family Physician of the Year from the Ohio State Society of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, and Citizen of the Year by the Wooster Daily Record.

Dr. Lehman made many house calls, such as this one, during his long medical career.
Established in 1992 by Irving, Texas-based Staff Care, Inc., the Country Doctor of the Year award program recognizes physicians' continuing contributions to rural healthcare and encourages doctors to practice in these settings. A bronze plaque is presented to role models who best exemplify "the spirit, skill, and dedication of America's rural medical practitioners." One week of locum tenens coverage is also provided to recipients so they can take well-deserved time off.

An Amish boy poses for the lens during a break in the school day.
Thinking back to his award ceremony, Dr. Lehman recalls feeling unworthy of all the attention, but says he quickly relied on his sense of humor and friendship with those in attendance to calm his nerves. Selflessly honoring family, friends, and colleagues for an hour, he acknowledged all who had shared in his life's work. In particular, he thanked his wife, Phyllis, noting, "Of the 35 years of our marriage, we have lived together only 28. With over 6,100 deliveries, and knowing the average hours of labor per birth, I've figured that I spent seven years of my life with women in labor" (Hoover, 2004).

On his return home, passing by horse-drawn buggies, Dr. Lehman pauses to savor the tranquility of this pastoral setting.
Philip B. Miller, vice president of corporate communications for The MHA Group, presented Dr. Lehman with Staff Care's prestigious award, declaring that his practice was one of the few that had not lost the personal connection in an era where medicine has become a business. As quoted in House Calls and Hitching Posts: Stories from Dr. Elton Lehman's career among the Amish, by Dorcas Sharp Hoover, Mr. Miller noted, "It is apparent that he still operates from the position of trust, compassion, and communication that is such an important part of the healing art. Dr. Lehman, I believe, practices medicine the way it is truly meant to be practiced—he puts patients first."

Although Dr. Lehman underwent double-bypass surgery less than a year after the ceremony, he recovered fully and handed the reigns of his practice over to "Dr. Brent" shortly thereafter. Now working only 20 hours a week in the office, he supplements his time volunteering at the Canton Community Clinic and the Startzman Free Clinic in Wooster. At the end of July, he decided to relinquish his practice at Doctors Hospital, but continues to serve as the medical director of the Mount Eaton Care Center.

Not one to ignore the suffering of others throughout the world, he has traveled with World Medical Missions to Kenya, East Africa, and with Baptist Medical Missions International (BMMI) to Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. More recently, he spent 4 weeks in Indonesia, sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee. On loan to the YAKKUM Emergency Unit from Java, Dr. Lehman provided care to tsunami victims at refugee camps throughout the countryside. Currently, he is tending to the underserved in El Salvador through BMMI.

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Are you affiliated with one of the growing numbers of medical practices or healthcare facilities that require the services of a locum tenens physician? More and more practitioners are accepting locum tenens assignments and providing coverage for doctors during vacations, continuing medical education seminars, and leaves of absence for illness or pregnancy. However, when it comes time to invoice Medicare for these services, many billing administrators fail to receive reimbursement.

"It is a particularly good opportunity," he states, "if you do not know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life—or even in the next few years." Locum tenens practice, Dr. Hawkinberry notes, is also a good way to acquire a wider breadth of experience than an anesthesiologist just starting out might otherwise be exposed to in a single setting. "Since I accept assignments in locations where I am needed, I have the opportunity to work with different surgeons and observe new approaches and procedures—increasing my clinical knowledge and networking capabilities."

Like scores of dedicated physicians, you may have toyed with the idea of locum tenens practice. Perhaps you have thought, There must be a catch, and set your ambition to hit the highway indefinitely on the back burner. Then, again, if you are in the middle to late stages of your career, you may think that companies are only looking for candidates in their 20s and 30s. Prepare to have these and other myths shattered. Read on to determine what you really can expect on the road.

When legendary explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled the Missouri River in present-day South Dakota, modern medicine was limited in its capabilities. The mere thought of radiologists using x-rays, CT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as diagnostic tools did not even broach the realm of possibilities. Rather, the duo relied on their instincts and lessons learned from the numerous Native American tribes they encountered.


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