Lt. Col. Robert Lehman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Tori Schultz
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
"I quickly realized in Officer Training School that I was into something different," said Lt. Col. Robert Lehman, 6th Aerospace Medicine Squadron chief of aerospace medicine. "This was no longer about me, this was now about how can I help my whole flight be successful. This was a huge change for me."

Lehman joined the Air Force at the age of 51, after 22 years in private practice as an OB-GYN. He could no longer afford to stay in private practice because insurance rates were going up while health insurance companies were reducing what they paid doctors.

No one in Lehman's family had been in the military and he did not know much about the military. Lehman turned to the Air Force website for more information and was contacted by a recruiter the very next day.

Lehman joined the Air Force and went to Commissioned Officer Training School to become an OB-GYN. With his situation being a little different, he came in as a Lieutenant Colonel and was sent to flight medicine training to learn how the Air Force works.

"My boss told me I was too old to be a real flight surgeon, that I'd never fly or wear a flight suit, but a few months later, when the General realized he had an experienced doctor and surgeon, he deployed me to Iraq as a flight surgeon," said Lehman. "I must have done something right, because everyone wanted me as a flight surgeon when I returned."

Twelve years later, Lehman oversees the operational side of aerospace medicine, which includes flight medicine, public health, and bioenvironmental engineering. He also supervises all profiles for the wing, the Medical Evaluation Boards and is the Public Health Emergency Officer.

Throughout his Air Force career Lehman has experienced challenges along the way. He encountered his first major challenge of transitioning from private practice to a military physician at his first base.

"Military physicians that have spent their entire career in the military have no concept of what it is like in private practice," said Lehman.  "They also tend to think there is only one way to do anything; that being the way the person before you did it. Medicine is an art and a science, and it takes effort to watch what is happening throughout the country and the world."

Lehman managed his own office for many years and uses what he has learned to be a leader for his Airmen. He believes that if he takes care of his people they will in turn take care of him, and that people do not often intentionally make mistakes, but rather the system is to blame.

"We need to take the time to help our people to succeed. We do not all learn in the same way or at the same pace," said Lehman. The goal of making someone successful is the same; we have to be aware that everyone is different. In other words, you don't blame the student for not learning. You should blame the teacher for not successfully teaching in a way that the student learns."