Developing Category: I.J. Coury
I.J. Coury was a well-known businessman and civic leader in New Mexico. He came to Farmington in 1938 when Mrs. Harriet Sammons, the wife of the hospital’s co-founder Dr. George Sammons, brought him on to audit the city books. From there, he went on to serve as the Town Clerk and a lifelong career of public service began. I.J. founded Coury and Coury Insurance, which later became Armstrong-Coury Insurance. He also founded San Juan Savings and Loan, serving as president, and was director of the First National Bank. He was known as “Mr. Water of New Mexico” for all of his tireless work and leadership on water matters. An unparalleled expert on San Juan water problems, he spearheaded organization of the San Juan Reclamation Association in 1940. In 1943, I.J. was appointed to the Interstate Stream Commission and served under 11 governors, becoming chairman in 1958. He helped to successfully lobby for passage of the Colorado River Storage Project, which included Navajo Dam and the Navajo Indian Irrigation Storage Project. He was even presented with the Department of the Interior’s National Conservation Award. He served as president of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce and in 1969, was the first person to be named “person of the year” by the organization.
In March of 1972, I.J. unexpectedly suffered a heart attack and was taken to San Juan Hospital. He passed away a few days later. A trust fund was established in his memory to equip an intensive care unit for heart patients. Six years after the fund was established, the proceeds were given to San Juan Regional Medical Center to create the I.J Coury Coronary Care Unit.
Developing Category: Dr. Robert Lehmer
Dr. Robert “Bob” Lehmer came to Farmington in 1972 after he was discharged from the Navy. He opened up a 600 square foot orthopedics practice at the corner of Lake and Animas near the hospital. At the time, there were many industrial and automobile accidents in the area and Bob kept busy taking care of trauma patients. By 1973, he was so busy that he asked his Naval Chief, Dr. John Romine, to come to Farmington and join him. The two formed a partnership and became Orthopedic Associates. Just three years later, they expanded again and moved into a bigger office. Always interested in cutting edge technology, Bob and John became some of the first surgeons in New Mexico to practice arthroscopic meniscal surgery. This minimally invasive technique allowed doctors to hold the instrument right up to their eye and view the inside of a joint without making a large incision, allowing them to diagnose and treat a wide range of knee problems.
Several years later, the two became part of an elite group charged with investigating the efficacy of the Ligament Augmentation Device. Over the next eight years they placed several hundred of the devices into patients’ knees arthroscopically and had a lot of success. Because of the investigative nature of the project, Bob created San Juan Regional Medical Center’s Institutional Review Board. He still sits on it today. Bob is passionate about improving the quality of life for our community and co-chaired a task force that later founded the River Reach Foundation. They have been able to reclaim the Animas and San Juan River corridors and put on one of Farmington’s signature events, River Fest, every year.
Current Category: Dr. Robert Grossheim
Dr. Robert Grossheim came to Farmington in January of 1977 to join Orthopedic Associates. During this time there was a marked increase in drilling in San Juan County. With more drilling came more major hand injuries, mostly from oil field workers injured on the job. Robert had a strong foundation in hand surgery during his residency in New York, so he agreed to subspecialize in hand surgery. This allowed most people with hand injuries to be treated in Farmington instead of having to travel to Albuquerque. Robert was active in the medical community. He served on the Medical Executive Committee three different times; was the Chairman of Surgery at the hospital in 1978; served on the Board of Directors as the Vice Chief of Staff in 1981 and the Chief of Staff in 1982.
As the Chairman of the operating room and Day Surgery Advisory Committee through the hospital, from 1985 to 1995, Robert participated in the development of both the hospital’s surgical center and the freestanding surgical center on 30th street. He was a founding member of San Juan IPA, partnering with insurance companies to improve the quality of care and decrease costs to patients.
Robert has been an active member of Rotary International and even traveled to Guatemala as an emissary. During the trip, the group helped dedicate an ambulance donated by Rotary, visited and volunteered in medical clinics and schools, and helped with water-oriented projects. He represents Bethany Christian Church as a member of the Hospital Corporation and has served on the medical executive board for San Juan Regional Rehabilitation Hospital for 20 years.
Current Category: Dr. Robert Stemsrud
Dr. Robert Stemsrud moved to Farmington in 1980 to join Orthopedic Associates. His main interests were total joint replacement and surgery of the foot and ankle. Over the next several years, he worked with San Juan Regional Medical Center staff to develop the Total Joint program and create a pathway to educate patients about their hospital stay, expectations, physical therapy and rehabilitation. Patients would meet with nurses specializing in total joint replacement teaching, physical therapists, and a member of the anesthesia team prior to surgery. During their hospital stay, the patients would be on a specific “track” or pathway, designed to hasten and facilitate their recovery. Because of this process, the average length of stay went from around 18 days to just two or three. He continued working with hospital staff to improve the program over the years and it continues at San Juan Regional Medical Center today.
Robert served as chairman of the Infection Control and Tissue/Transfusion committees. He participated, with his associates, on San Juan Regional’s Trauma Team. After retiring from active practice in 2004, Robert began surgical assisting, lending his expertise to OR teams until mid-2009.
Robert has been a member of Farmington Rotary Club since 1980 and played the piano at the meetings to lead weekly singing sessions for 25 years. He has also been a member of the Presbyterian Church choir and has sung with the Caliente Community Chorus for several years.