James Lehman, DC, MBA, FACO, has faced physically challenging moments in his life, but they have not deterred him from making big strides in the medical community. He is an inspiration to chiropractic physicians, especially those seeking integration with a primary care team. He is a board-certified chiropractic orthopedist focusing on the treatment of patients suffering with chronic pain due to neuromusculoskeletal conditions. At the Community Health Center Inc. in Waterbury, Connecticut, he provides medical services as a chiropractic specialist and a member of the medical staff. He will discuss at NCLC 2015 his experience as an evidence-based provider within a community health center. Dr. Lehman is an associate professor of clinical sciences and director of health sciences postgraduate education at the University of Bridgeport. He also serves as the team DC for the Bridgeport Bluefish pro baseball team and mentors fourth-year chiropractic clerks and chiropractic residents in orthopedics/neuromusculoskeletal medicine.
What inspired you to become a doctor of chiropractic?
I injured my lower back as a teenager. I was the front-seat passenger (before the use of seat belts) and riding shotgun, when the driver lost control and drove into a telephone pole at 35 mph. Just before impact, I reached across to keep the other passenger in the middle from going through the windshield. Consequently, I sprained my back. At the time, I was a very healthy, young athlete and did not realize any injury. Unfortunately, it soon became obvious that I had indeed injured my lumbar spine. I experienced severe lower back pain and muscle spasms when running that ended my high school career in football and baseball because the team doctor had no idea why my back hurt. Four years later, I was referred to a chiropractor that diagnosed the problem and relieved my chronic lower back pain with two chiropractic adjustments of the spine. It was upon this chiropractor’s recommendation (Raymond Walta, DC) that I visited Logan College of Chiropractic and decided to enroll in the chiropractic program.
You experienced a health scare in the past few years. How did you bounce back, and what has kept you from slowing down [in the chiropractic field]?
During February of 2013, I experienced a complete occlusion of the left anterior descending coronary artery. Fortunately, a talented cardiologist and surgeon saved my life with a stent implant. I did take one month off after my massive coronary event, known as a “widow maker.” My desire to make a difference through chiropractic education and integration of chiropractic services into coordinated care organizations kept me from slowing down.
What have you learned by working at the University of Bridgeport as an associate professor and a director?
I have learned that our profession must realize the value of improving our clinical education with resident training in specialty areas, such as non-surgical orthopedics, neuromusculoskeletal medicine and primary care medicine, which will enable our graduates to improve clinical skills and integrate into the new, coordinated health care system. It has become obvious to me that chiropractic students must become more aware of evidence-based practice and patient-centered care, which will improve their quality of care and patient satisfaction. Most importantly, I have learned that our chiropractic colleges must prepare future graduates to integrate into the health care system as a valuable member of the medical team.
What can attendees expect to learn from your NCLC discussion in February?
I expect numerous discussions will take place regarding health care reform, expansion of scope of reimbursement through the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, the future of primary care and the benefits of chiropractic integration into coordinated care organizations to provide high-quality chiropractic care for patients suffering with chronic pain.
I will engage the audience in the discussion with an active learning style of teaching, which will enable me to deliver several important messages that will prepare chiropractors to prepare for the future.
What advice do you have for chiropractic students?
• Become familiar with the National Prevention Strategy, Section 2706 of the Affordable Care Act, the many different types of coordinated care organizations and the need for better care of patients suffering with chronic pain.
• Realize that the health care system is changing and there is a need for chiropractic physicians to integrate into the system as physicians rather than midlevel providers.
• Upon graduation or sooner, investigate the community health care organizations in your community, and seek out opportunities to provide chiropractic services.
• Introduce yourself to primary care providers in your community, and develop professional relationships, which will enhance the availability to high-quality, evidence-based and patient-centered chiropractic care.
With time away from your career, what do you like to do for fun?
I am a serious St. Louis Cardinal baseball fan. Therefore, I enjoy attending Cardinal games. When in New Mexico, I enjoy hiking the Sandia Mountain trails. During the winter months, I enjoy downhill skiing and fine dining. I most enjoy these recreational activities when shared with my family and friends.