His medical school days were defined by challenging work and rewarding connections with faculty and classmates. During his internal medicine internship at UF Health Shands Hospital, he recalled his experience working as an orderly in the radiology department of Tampa General Hospital during summer breaks from college and decided to pivot into radiology, a field marked by a strong knowledge of anatomy and the mystery that comes with helping patients you only get to meet through scans of organs and bones.
After residency, driven by the goal of beginning a nuclear medicine fellowship at San Francisco General Hospital, the Florida native swapped the warm, serene Gulf waters of his childhood for the cool, crashing Pacific waves of California.
Lehtola’s favorite part about working as a radiologist at Kaiser Permanente was spending each day learning from fellow physicians and teaching them in return. His career highlight came during his last year of practice in 2009, when colleagues recognized him with a Career of Caring Award for his work ethic, reliability and congeniality.
In retirement, Lehtola enjoys cooking, trying new restaurants and traveling. Nearly every day, he perches in front of his piano and plays while looking out onto the San Francisco skyline. Upon his mother’s death, he brought her sewing machine to California and has become fond of quilting, a hobby that continues to connect him to his mom.
Though he loves California, he gets nostalgic about Gainesville from time to time and keeps his admissions letter from the UF College of Medicine in a frame. Still, 50 years since stepping foot on UF’s campus, he feels a sense of gratitude.
“There’s never been a doubt in my mind that I would leave a legacy to UF to say thank you for how the College of Medicine transformed my life,” Lehtola says. “This gift is also in memory of my parents and the opportunities they made available to me. They will be remembered in a way that’s positive and supports the goals of medical students who can provide the best service to society. I can’t think of a better way to honor them.”
This story originally ran in the Fall 2020 issue of the Doctor Gator newsletter.