Drs. Nelson Lehman (with cake) and Jerry Miller retired from LG Health Physicians Family Medicine Susquehanna on the same day.
Drs. Nelson Lehman and Jerry Miller -- who met as college roommates -- started and ended their medical careers on the same days, at the same practice.
“We walked in together on Sept. 4, 1979, and then on Dec. 30, 2016, we walked out together,” Dr. Lehman said. “We were in practice together for 37 years.”
The longtime friends recently retired from LG Health Physicians Family Medicine Susquehanna. Over those 37 years, they learned how pursuing outside interests – outside being the key word – can increase professional satisfaction and fight burnout.
Drs. Lehman and Miller met in the early 1970s at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. Dr. Miller later served as Dr. Lehman’s best man. They began their careers at Marietta’s newly opened Susquehanna Family Health Center, which eventually joined LG Health and became Family Medicine Susquehanna.
Both physicians cultivated a variety of outdoor-oriented interests, including travel.
“I’ve always enjoyed adventure and exploring, especially hiking, hunting and fishing,” Dr. Miller said. “It’s something that gives me energy. Looking forward to trips was a way I helped to manage stress.”
Dr. Lehman enjoys tandem bicycling, overnight backpacking and birdwatching with his wife, Cheryl.
“I feel like I never had significant burnout,” he said. “I did face some times when I would get terminal dullness, where my mind just wasn’t as sharp as it should be. I realized then that I needed a vacation.”
Dr. Miller and his wife Doris on vacation
In addition to their outdoor pursuits, both physicians found fulfillment through medical mission trips. Dr. Miller, his wife Doris and their two sons lived in Peru for three years.
“It was a very rewarding experience,” he said. “A lot of times, I didn’t feel like I could do much medically, but people were extremely grateful for what I was able to do.”
Dr. Lehman took several shorter mission trips to a Navajo Indian reservation, Ethiopia, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
“That was a life-giving part of my career, being able to give back in that way,” he said. “It fed my curiosity, as well as my need for lifelong learning.”
Medicine changed dramatically from early in their careers, when Dr. Lehman recalls taking a walk over lunch and leaving the office around 5:30 p.m. most days. By the time both retired, seeing patients for four hours required at least two more hours of charting and paperwork.
“Record-keeping is definitely superior and more accurate and accessible now,” Dr. Miller said. “It added a lot of time to our workload, but despite that, I wouldn’t want to go back to the earlier system.”
Both newly retired physicians now appreciate having more time to focus on their interests outside of medicine. For Dr. Miller, that includes taking a fly-tying course.
The Lehmans hit the open road in their 31-foot RV early this year. They are currently visiting their daughter in the Tucson area, with a planned return home in April.
“You get to the point where you realize life doesn’t go on forever,” Dr. Lehman said of deciding to retire.
He encourages would-be travelers to spend more than one night at each destination and consider flexibility and an open mind as packing essentials. (“You’re never quite sure what you’ll find,” he said.)
The Millers are flexible too, mapping out a basic travel plan but leaving plenty of room for impromptu side trips. They don’t own an RV – yet – but their retirement plans definitely include more travel.
“We would like to visit the Southwest,” Dr. Miller said. “We haven’t seen the Grand Canyon yet. That’s one thing on our to-do list.”
The Millers just made reservations to meet their old friends, the Lehmans, at the Grand Canyon this fall.