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A farewell celebration was held Saturday at Children First Medical Center, as Dr. Uchenna Umeh prepares to leave at the end of this month to join the Air Force.
“I decided to join because I want to give back to the country that has given me so much,” Umeh said. “My plan is to return to Lancaster after my four-year term. I’ve been here for close to 14 years, and I will be back.”
Umeh’s last day at Children First is Aug. 21, and she will leave on Aug. 27 to go to Maxwell Air Force Base for five weeks of Commissioned Officer Training School. In early October she will go to Lackland Air Force Base, where she will be stationed for the four-year term. As a Lieutenant Colonel, Umeh said her main duty will be teaching.
“I will do some clinical work, but I will be teaching and training residents for the most part,” she said. “I am really looking forward to it.”
Office Manager Charlotte Graham said this has been an exciting time at the pediatric office.
“We are very excited for Dr. Umeh,” she said. “But we want to make sure everyone knows we are going to keep this business running until she comes back. It will be business as usual.”
Umeh said she will return once a year to fill in for her replacements when they go on vacation until she returns permanently.
“I need all my patients to stay right here,” she said. “Or I won’t have anyone to come back to. And I am looking forward to being able to come back and see them while I am stationed in Texas.”
Dr. William Westerkam from Columbia will be coming on board at the clinic while Umeh is gone, along with Karla Robinson, a nurse practitioner from Morganton, N.C.
“I’ve been here for three weeks and it has been great,” Robinson said. “I am hoping to make this transition very smooth and it has been really nice getting to know the folks here.”
There was a good turnout of Umeh’s patients on Saturday, despite the morning rain. Tents were set up in the parking lot, and the festivities included a cook-out, music, face painting and clown entertainment.
“I just don’t want anyone to forget that I will be back,” Umeh said. “This is still my practice and I am coming back to it. I had two offers if I wanted to sell it, but I turned them down. This is home and I will be back.”