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Nearly two weeks ago, Michael Lemole was finishing a golf lesson when he received news that would soon capture the eyes of a nation.

Fast-forward to today: Lemole — who graduated from Penn’s School of Medicine in 1995 — now finds himself in what is easily the most high-profile case of his career.

As the chief of neurosurgery at the University of Arizona Medical Center, Lemole is one of three primary doctors for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Giffords was critically wounded after being shot point-blank in the head outside a Tucson, Ariz. supermarket on Jan. 8.

A native of Montgomery County and brother-in-law of popular television personality Dr. Oz, Lemole said he has drawn upon his experiences from his time at Penn throughout Giffords’ recovery.

“It’s better to learn in advance than to learn on the battlefield,” he said. “Penn gave me the tools I needed to do just that.”

Since the shooting that left six dead and 12 wounded, Lemole’s once quiet and routine life has been turned upside down.

Daily press conferences with national media outlets have complemented regular rounds of visits to current patients. Praise for Lemole has come in by the hundreds — he said he has received “more letters and e-mails than I can count.”

Lemole, who now checks in on Giffords several times a day, said his laid-back, down-to-earth personality has helped keep things in perspective throughout the case.

“It’s obviously an entirely new experience for all of us, but we’re not treating [Giffords] differently than we’d treat any other patient,” Lemole said. “Our job now is the same as it always has been — to render the best care possible.”

For Barbara Wagner, Director of Student Affairs at the Medical School, Lemole’s handling of Giffords’ recovery comes as no surprise. Wagner said that she remembers Lemole as a “bright, serious-minded and goal-oriented student.”

“He’s handled himself beautifully over the past few weeks,” she said. “He’s confident, he’s composed and he’s unflappable.”

Eric Zager, a professor of neurosurgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania who remembers Lemole as a student, echoed Wagner’s sentiment.

“[Lemole] has handled Rep. Giffords’ case in an exemplary fashion and we are proud of his Penn affiliation,” Zager wrote in an e-mail.

Lemole chose to come to Penn after earning his undergraduate degree from Harvard University. “[Penn] was close to my family and friends, but it also offered a top-notch medical education,” he explained.

His experiences since Jan. 8 have only reaffirmed his career choice, he added. On the whole, the past few weeks are ones that he will never forget.

“I think this gives you a snapshot of the American psyche right now — people are grateful, they’re optimistic and they’re hopeful,” he said. “It’s certainly been a humbling time for me.”

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