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    A Survivor takes on locum tenens

    When Marcus Lehman, MD, began his residency in anesthesiology, he planned to see his training straight through to the end. But after his first year, he received an offer he could not refuse.


    Marcus Lehman, MD (back row, third from right), with staff of the Johnson County, Georgia, community healthcare center.
    "In 2006 my mother entered me in a Cosmopolitan bachelor contest, and I wound up being featured in the magazine," Dr. Lehman says. "Then after it was published, someone from the staff of the television show Survivor got hold of it and thought I might make a good addition to the cast."

    Dr. Lehman was ultimately selected to be part of Survivor: Gabon, which premiered in September 2008. "It was a very cool experience and a lot of fun, but because of the timing, I had to take a year off from my residency," he says. "So once I finished with the show, I returned home and started looking for something else to do until I could resume my program in July."

    STAYING ON TRACK

    Eager to use his medical skills, Dr. Lehman contacted Suwanee, Georgia-based Harris Medical Associates in hopes of securing some temporary contracts. "Though my time on Survivor was fantastic, it never swayed me from my main goal of practicing medicine," he says. "Since I wanted to keep my hand in the medical field, and also see different parts of my home state, locum tenens medicine seemed perfect."

    Harris Medical Associates quickly matched Dr. Lehman with an opportunity just 3 hours from his own city, but a world apart in many ways. "I am currently providing services to an underserved population of Medicare and Medicaid patients at a community clinic that is part of a larger nonprofit organization," he says.

    The patients are a big part of the appeal for Dr. Lehman. "The people we see here are part of the lowest income group around, and some have responded beautifully to the education we provide," he says. "The biggest issues they contend with are obesity and diabetes, followed by coronary artery disease. We also see a lot of asthma and substance abuse, including tobacco. At first many of the patients were skeptical about the idea of diet and weight loss being an essential part of their well-being. But I have seen some great turnarounds. One particularly impressive patient dropped about 90 pounds after starting the program and has since been able to come off his meds. He is now more mobile than he had ever been before, and his quality of life is incomparable."

    Dr. Lehman has been impressed with his colleagues, as well. "I am so grateful to have this chance to learn from them and grow in my understanding of family and general practice. This experience is everything I could have hoped for."

    GOING THE DISTANCE

    The contract turned out so well that Dr. Lehman has extended his stay from 7 weeks to 14 weeks. "I would love to continue on here for as long as possible," he says. "I get to treat patients primarily in the clinic, since there are hospitalists on staff, and I have no on-call responsibilities, which leaves me time to bond with the community at large."

    From the beginning, Dr. Lehman felt right at home in his new town. "I have only positive things to say about the people here," he says. "Everyone has greeted me with open arms, and I have made some great friends. And thanks to my stint on Survivor, I was able to do some newspaper stuff and hope to write a few wellness articles for the community."

    Dr. Lehman advises all locum tenens physicians to get involved with their new locations. "Take every chance you can to contribute to your new community," he says. "It can make the experience so much more worthwhile. And embrace the differences as much as possible. Before this I had only treated a very well-off patient population in a state-of-the-art facility in a large city. But thanks to this locum tenens opportunity, I have been able to expand my horizons enormously. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world."

    Lisa Daggett
    Lisa Daggett is a freelance writer based in Saugerties, New York.