A physician’s journey from community college to the C-suite
By Erika D. Peterman, FMA Managing Editor
From the outset as a pre-pharmacy student attending community college, FMA President and Broward Health Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Joshua Lenchus, DO, RPh, FACP, SFHM, kept his eye on his longtime goal of becoming a physician. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Florida and working as a pharmacist for three years, Dr. Lenchus went on to earn his DO degree from the Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine, eventually becoming a high-profile leader physician leader in healthcare and in organized medicine.
April 17-23 is National Osteopathic Medicine Week (NOMW). In the following Q&A, Dr. Lenchus, an internal medicine physician, discussed medicine’s growing DO workforce, persevering during difficult times, and why caring for patients is “an honor.”
Q: “From community college to the C-suite” is one way you have described your journey to physician leadership. What inspired you to enter medical school after earning your RPh degree and working as a pharmacist for several years? Specifically, what attracted you to osteopathic medicine?
A: “I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. In fact, on my pharmacy school application's personal statement, I indicated such. One needs a bachelor's degree as a prerequisite for medical school. I thought pharmacy was a logical choice that would aptly prepare me for what I'd encounter in medicine. Leveraging the relationships built over the few years I practiced as a community and hospital pharmacist served me incredibly well as I would not have been accepted to medical school without them. With respect to osteopathic medicine, like others, I knew little about it until I was invited to interview. I knew I would be a physician, and if allopathic or osteopathic medicine afforded me that opportunity, I applied to both. When I learned about the holistic approach as the foundation of osteopathic medicine and spoke with DO mentors, it was a clear choice for me.”
Q: According to the American Osteopathic Association’s 2020-21 report, the number of osteopathic physicians in the United States increased 80% over the past decade. What, in your opinion, are some of the factors driving medical students’ increased interest in osteopathic medicine?
A: “The number of medical school applicants has increased overall. Increased recognition of the legitimacy of osteopathic medicine has helped fuel the interest therein. DOs feature prominently in notable positions – in NASA, public health, and even as physicians to Presidents Trump and Biden. Additionally, osteopathic medical schools are in the USA and thus, residency training sites are not as difficult as they are for others. I think we have moved well beyond the negative stigma of osteopathic medicine. DOs are licensed to practice medicine and surgery in every state in the nation, and in all fields of medicine.”
Q: Why is it important to educate the public about the unique aspects of osteopathic medicine both in practice and in training?
A: “Despite the relative uniformity of medical education at present, osteopathic medical school still provides training in osteopathic manipulation – using the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons to treat some ailments. Some DOs practice this type of medicine exclusively, others forgo it altogether once out of residency, and still some add it to the more conventional treatment options available.”
Q: What do you find most satisfying about your current role as Chief Medical Officer for Broward Health Medical Center, and about practicing medicine in general?
A: “Practicing medicine is a true privilege. Patients confide in and trust you with information held most dear. They literally place their lives in your hands. What a rare honor. It is a humbling experience to have the ability to affect one's life so profoundly. As physicians, we affect one patient at a time. As Chief Medical Officer, I have the opportunity to effect positive changes at a system level with an aim to improve the provision of healthcare for all patients.”
Q: As an SFBW Magazine 2021 Excellence in Healthcare honoree, you talked about the importance of responding to life’s challenges with persistence and resilience. Given the extraordinary circumstances of the past several years, what has helped you remain energized about your work as a physician and as an organized medicine leader?
A: “My parents instilled in me a sense of purpose, serving something larger than oneself. That has been the bedrock of my resilience throughout the pandemic. I know that we can always be better than we are today, and I hope to leave those organizations in which I have been privileged to serve a little better than when I started. I have been fortunate to have been able to contribute in meaningful ways throughout my professional career. For that, I am eternally grateful to those who supported me throughout my journey.”