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STATE | ASPS member inaugurated as KS Governor

For the first time in history, an ASPS member has risen to the highest level in state government, the role of governor. Jeffrey Colyer, MD, Overland Park, Kan., was inaugurated on January 31, 2018 following Governor Sam Brownback's appointment to President Trump's administration as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

Dr. Colyer will assume the governor's office for the remainder of Gov. Brownback's term. In August, he also formed a campaign committee for the state's 2018 gubernatorial race.

In addition to running a successful practice, Dr. Colyer for more than 25 years has volunteered in war zones around the world, including Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. "Plastic surgeons have a big impact at home in their communities and in their E.R.s, but also helping people abroad – it's very unique," he tells PSN. He took a few minutes to discuss how his background can influence the work he does in the state's highest office.

PSN: Given your background in plastic surgery and familiarity with health care, are there any related issues your particularly focused on for the state as you assume the role of governor?

Dr. Colyer: We've transformed our Medicaid program to start using real evidence-based data and plans, and focus on outcomes. As a result, we've been able to improve outcomes across the board. We're going to continue to have a lot of issues happening in health-care reform – not only with the cost of insurance, but we're working on plans to produce more nurses and doctors. We're developing a privately funded medical school and working on a lot of cutting-edge policy. Other states are starting to do what Kansas did for health-care reform, so we've been around the country visiting with other state leaders about it. I think the skills that you use as a plastic surgeon – listening to your patient, identifying problems, working on a long-term solution as opposed to a short-term political one – help provide real results for people. A lot of people don't understand what a plastic surgeon is. They think it's all liposuction and cosmetics. While discussion of the role of plastic surgeons always includes craniofacial, hand reconstruction, trauma and pediatric plastic surgery, we also have an opportunity to show the breadth of our work overall.

PSN: We've run articles and columns in the past few issues about unrealistic patient expectations when it comes to plastic surgery. Would you say that subject transfers to your role as governor?

Dr. Colyer: I think patients, as well as the citizens of our state, expect you to be straight with them and say, "Here's what the situation is. We may not have a perfect answer, but here's an approach for this." You have to work hard and be a tenacious advocate for your patient, and I'm a tenacious advocate for our state and how we move it forward. There are a lot of politicians that over-promise and under-deliver. Recognize that complications happen. Deal with them. We have challenges like every other state. We'll deal with them and we're going to be straightforward.

PSN: How is the new role going to affect the way you spend time in practice?

Dr. Colyer: I've had to cut my practice time back by about 80-90 percent, but I am trying to do surgeries on Fridays. I still see patients every week. I still take call. Many times when I walk into the O.R., I'm just the doctor. A few days later some patients realize, "Oh that guy's going to be governor." I think they like the idea of somebody that works with people and is part of the real world.

PSN: How can plastic surgeons in Kansas work with you to proactively advance health-care issues that will improve the quality of care in the state?

Dr. Colyer: Not just for our state, but all over the country, one of the things we can do is collaborate more and work with our patients. That can help lead to policy. Plastic surgeons are pretty innovative people and using some of that creativity can produce strong results.

PSN: In terms of work done by state societies, how influential would you say that pertains to what ultimately happens at a national level?

Dr. Colyer: The states are the laboratories of democracy. It's a lot easier to focus on an issue and get it done at the state level. Once something is successful in a few states, then you can go national with it. A lot of the things we've been doing with state health care are now part of the national debate. Issues that face plastic surgeons – how they're regulated, taxes and a lot of different pieces that affect patients, such as insurance and access to care – those really happen at the state level. You can have big dividends from just spending a little bit of time and effort in your state. Even a small group of plastic surgeons can have a big impact pretty quickly. I would encourage plastic surgeons to get involved on the state level.

PlastyPAC has been tremendously helpful and there are other plastic surgeons looking to help this campaign. We appreciate the support of plastic surgeons and want to say thank you for what they and PlastyPAC have done. If you're looking to be involved – even if you're not from Kansas – you can go to jeffcolyer.com and find out a little bit more about what's going on. We appreciate the support of our plastic surgeon colleagues.