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June 29, 2021

After Five Decades, Esteemed Gastroenterologist Retires from IU Health

After Five Decades, Esteemed Gastroenterologist Retires from IU Health

By IU Health Senior Journalist, TJ Banes,

There’s a recurrent theme among those who work closely with Dr. Glen Lehman. It goes like this: They came to IU Health because of Dr. Lehman and they have stayed because of Dr. Lehman. And another message recounted nearly as often: Dr. Lehman constantly gives credit to his team members for building a nationally recognized program at IU Health.

Over the years, he has established such close relationships with his team members that some simply call him, “Glen,” or “G.L.”

Those team members number the 100s. By one count, some of those he trained in endoscopy have gone on to train the next generation, and that generation has trained the next.

Dr. Glen Lehman working alongside team members

As he performed his last official endoscopy Thursday, he had one of his long-time nurses, Lois Bucksot, by his side. After more than 40 years together, they performed the procedure in perfect choreography. Dr. Lehman asked Bucksot questions about their first procedure and asked how many procedures they’ve completed over the years. One estimate is that the ERCP team at IU Health has performed more than 60,000 procedures since 1994.

Bucksot first met Dr. Lehman when she was a floor nurse. He was known for making his patient rounds and then checking in on the nurses – often peppering them with questions about each patient.

“He’s just an excellent educator he finds interesting questions to raise in any case. He’s a great communicator and I think he strives to get everyone on the team involved in all cases,” said Bucksot. More than once Dr. Lehman has given team members the look – his blue eyes peeking out over the top of his readers – questioning their answers to his queries.

Dr. Lehman peeking over the top of his readers

As he finished his last official procedure, on a long-time patient suffering from pancreatitis, Dr. Lehman’s team members watched the procedure from a nearby room. The video viewing is one more part of Dr. Lehman’s legacy. Early on, he invited trainees to observe procedures through an “endoscopy suite.”

“Working with Dr. Lehman has been a dream come true. I’m here because of him. He’s been an amazing teacher and mentor for 25 years,” said Dr. Evan Fogel who specializes in digestive and liver disorders.

“Teacher” and “Mentor” are two words heard over and over by Dr. Lehman’s peers. Other words associated with him are “compassionate,” “gracious,” “approachable” and “humble.”

One story shared was about how Dr. Lehman showed up to interview a perspective IU Health employee and wore a suit and tie. When asked why he dressed formally he responded: “Because we have a guest.”

Dr. Naga Chalasani, division chief of gastroenterology said: “That’s how Dr. Lehman treats everyone - his patients and his team members - as a guest.”

Those who know Dr. Lehman best give credit to his Hoosier upbringing for his grace and humility.

Dr. Lehman surrounded by teammates

He began his life on an Indiana dairy farm, in Adams County. He was one of six children – all who completed college. He graduated in the top one percent of his class, earning his degree in 1968 from IU School of Medicine. He completed his internship at Duke University and returned to Indiana for a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in gastroenterology at the Indiana University Medical Center.

His early medical experiences included a three-month volunteer position in Bolivia. He then returned to Indiana where he established an endoscopic training program.

Dr. Lehman went on to present training observations on six continents. He served as a major in the U.S. Army at Brooke Army Medical Center from 1972 to 1974. Afterward, he joined the IU School of Medicine and served as a gastrointestinal fellow.

Young Dr. Lehman in the U.S. Army at Brooke Army Medical Center

“It was a different era - radiology and barium studies were the diagnostic tests of the day. Endoscopic tools were just barely beginning. On a busy day we’d have three upper endoscopies,” said Dr. Lehman in 2018 interview. He credits the progress over the years with advancements in scopes, and accessories, and with the quality of team members – all efforts to make the endoscopic techniques safer for patients.

“He has always made an effort to get to know his team members. When I first started working with him five and half years ago he asked me how he could remember my name,” said Nurse Britney Fleming. Dr. Lehman quickly made an association with the Cliffs of Brittany in France. From then on, they became better acquainted through a shared interest in travel.

“He wanted to get to know each of us as a person not just as a coworker,” said Nurse Marilyn Johnston, who has worked with Dr. Lehman for three years. “He was always giving us multiple choice quizzes with at least one answer that you knew you could immediately eliminate, and he never failed to tell us what a good job we’d done.”

In the early years, Nurse Judy Dunlap remembers Dr. Lehman bringing a cup of coffee into the procedure room. “He was always willing to pitch in and do anything,” said Dunlap. “He would always help us turn over the rooms, clean the rooms, and make the beds to keep things moving.”

She told about how Dr. Lehman quizzed the nursing students and rewarded the student with the best answer with a $100 bill.

As a result of his innovation, research and clinical contributions, IU Health leadership named “The Glen Lehman Endoscopy Center” at University Hospital in his honor. Dr. Lehman has also been recognized for his work as the recipient of the prestigious Rudolf Schindler Award, presented by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

Dr. Glen Lehman receives an award for his work with gastrointestinal procedures

In short, Dr. Glen Lehman has dedicated his career to gastrointestinal procedures. Specifically, he has helped diagnose diseases of the gallbladder, biliary system of the liver, and pancreas.

Over the years he has served as the Professor of Medicine and Radiology in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. In his honor, The Glen A. Lehman Senior Chair, a permanent faculty endowment in gastroenterology was established in 2004.

IU Health Dr. Michel House, Division Chief of General Surgery described Dr. Lehman as “someone beyond legendary status.” He said, “He pioneered a procedure and established a model of excellence.”

There are two things that IU Health Surgeon Dr. Nick Zyromski said have stuck with him over the years he has known Dr. Lehman: “First, he never gives up no matter how hard the problem, and second, he never settles for status quo.”

In a 2018 interview Stuart Sherman, professor of medicine and radiology at IU School of Medicine said: “Dr. Lehman has not only helped shape the career of many gastroenterologists locally, but also throughout the world.”

Dr. Lehman plans to continue as a teacher and researcher. What does he consider his legacy? “I’ve taught more than 100 fellows all over the United States and about 20 internationally. Over the years we’ve had tremendous productivity. I couldn’t have done it without the team, but they could have done it without me if they had another partner.”

Dr. Lehman and his wife Lana, are the parents of two daughters Kristin Macdonald, and Andrea Asher. They are the grandparents of 10-year-old twins, and a 4-year-old boy. As he looks to the next chapter, he says he hopes to spend more time with his family and fish a little more.

"We Will Miss You" part for Dr. Lehman

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