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Professor and Vice Chair for Educational Programs Awarded Lifetime Achievement Award at 2018 UWM Alumni Association Awards

Two men sit at a table in a library
By Zachary Willis

Reminiscing on his commitment to service, retired Air Force Col (Dr.) Paul A. Hemmer accepted a lifetime achievement award from his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, at their 2018 UWM Alumni Association Awards this past October.

Dr. Hemmer headshot
Dr. Paul Hemmer, professor and vice chair for Educational Programs
in USU’s Department of Medicine, was selected for one of the
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s 2018 outstanding alumni
awards. (Photo by Thomas Balfour)
“I’ve always seen my life as about service, and the reason that I’m here is to serve,” said Hemmer, who is professor and vice chair of Educational Programs in the Department of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU.  “I saw medicine as a really important way to do that. I love the science, I love learning about… all aspects of it. Fundamentally, though, it all comes down to service.”

From the start, a desire to serve was instilled into Hemmer by his father, who served in the Army Air Corps in WWII. However, it wasn’t until he watched a show about Los Angeles paramedics called “Emergency” that he found his true calling in the medical field, and even still, Hemmer’s career trajectory needed a little refining.

“I remember my teacher saying ‘Why would you want to be a paramedic? Why wouldn’t you want to be a doctor?’ and I said, ‘I think you’re right!’ There was a teacher who saw something in me that I may not have seen in myself. [Since then,] I’ve never ever thought about doing anything else.”

Hemmer stayed true to his word and became a doctor, never straying from the medical path. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Target MD program, which was a three-year undergraduate program affiliated with the Medical College of Wisconsin. This program allowed Hemmer to have his fourth year of college essentially act as his first year of medical school, giving him the opportunity for seven years of education versus eight.

Following medical school, Hemmer had an extensive career of 21 years in the Air Force, retiring in 2012 at the rank of colonel. He finished out his Air Force career at USU and eventually started running the core program for students training in internal medicine. Today, Hemmer is the department vice chair for Educational Programs, and has held the position for 10 years. His commitment to service continues to be the guiding path in his life.

Dr. Paul Hemmer and Col. (Dr.) Jeffrey LaRochelle have a discussion during a break in the filming for a video tribute by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in honor of Hemmer’s selection as one of their 2018 outstanding alumni. (Photo by Sarah Marshall)

“I’m very proud of my career in the Air Force and that I’ve been able to stay on at USU as a faculty member, now as a civilian,” Hemmer said. “I’m continuing to serve medical students and fellow faculty members and patients who are here, but also continuing to serve the nation.”

Hemmer is thankful for those who continue to give him fulfillment and allow him the opportunity to serve in the name of medicine. He is also thankful for and humbled by the people who nominated him for UWM’s Lifetime Achievement Award, saying that those “who recognized that opportunity and thought that much of me, are the world’s greatest gift.”