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A conversation with … Carolyn Gaughan

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, at 7:45 a.m.

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During Carolyn Gaughan’s 25 years as executive director for the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians, membership has more than doubled to over 1,000 active members.

KAFP is the state chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians, which is based in Leawood. KAFP was founded in 1948.

And Gaughan says it’s unique that the state chapter of the organization is based in Wichita instead of Topeka.

“Wichita is really the home for family medicine in this state,” she said. “And that’s largely because of the wonderful community of family doctors that we have here, the residency programs and the school of medicine … family physicians provide the backbone of care for the state of Kansas.”

Gaughan grew up in McPherson from “a family of preachers and teachers.” She attended college at Central Christian College in McPherson and Greenville College in Greenville, Ill. She later received a master’s degree in science education from Wichita State University.

For several years, Gaughan was a high school science teacher and was also the president of the Wichita Federation of Teachers before joining KAFP as executive director in 1989.

When she’s not working, she enjoys painting and pastels, and over the last several years she’s started sailing with her husband and a group of friends in the British Virgin Islands.

How have things changed in the 25 years you’ve been with KAFP?

“The environment in which the physicians practice medicine has really changed. A lot more government rules and regulations, which frankly I know not many people are very happy about ...

Part of what is facing not only family docs, but physicians everywhere, is how to deal with that environment and what their choices are. Our academy is really doing the best we can providing continuing medical education and to provide the advocacy to really hold back as much as we can the tide of rules and regulations that seem to come their way.”

What are some of the organization’s goals for 2014?

“Medicaid expansion is one of the huge things that our academy has taken a position on. We’re all for it and yet it’s a political climate where it’s difficult to see what’s going to happen. We have some legislative priorities. A number of them are related to medical education. We want to maintain robust departments of family medicine and maintain the funding and see the programs that help place students, particularly in rural areas of the state, remain funded. We’re working with the medical society regarding caps for non-economic damages. We anticipate a challenge this year from nurse practitioners to have totally independent practice, basically with no limits on their scope of practice. So we are not in favor of that. We believe in team-based care. Our members utilize nurse practitioners and physicians assistants and they’re very important in providing care, but working with the physician at the head of that team.”

What are some of the biggest challenges?

“To utilize electronic medical records, to do population-based health and to then translate that back into the practice with individual patients and follow up with preventative care. There are also huge opportunities there with those same things. There are also some “carrots” out there for reimbursements and funding and we’re going to start seeing the “stick,” too, with disincentives. So the docs can start to say I’m providing this quality of care – and insurance companies want to make that transition, too – they don’t want to pay for volume as much they want to pay for value.”

What’s your favorite part of the job?

“When all the planning is done and we’re having our annual meeting. It’s just the highlight of the year in so many ways. We get 170 people together and we talk and sometimes we argue, sometimes we cry together and we always laugh together, and they elect new officers and take positions on some of these important topics. That’s just the best time of the year for me. We alternate back and forth between Wichita and Kansas City. It’s a lot of fun.”

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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