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LeFevre fever

MU physician's honor is hot news nationally

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  • Story by Nancy Moen
  • Photos by Shane Epping
  • Published: Dec. 2, 2011
Dr. Mike LeFevre in his element

MU physician Michael LeFevre jokes with patient Bernadine Ford. LeFevre, who heads the clinical activities of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, was elected to the Institute of Medicine, the health branch of the National Academies of Science.

Michael LeFevre is a nationally respected expert on health policy, but to his young patients, he’s the doctor who can quack like Donald Duck.

It’s a good mix of talents for the family-medicine physician recognized in October with membership in the prestigious Institute of Medicine, the health branch of the National Academies of Science.

LeFevre should have suspected the honor was coming. He’s co-vice chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a position largely considered a launching pad for the IOM. 

Task force members study medical problems that affect large parts of the population. Using scientific evidence, they make recommendations for preventive care on important health issues such as prostate tests and breast cancer.

Similarly, LeFevre serves as a member of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure, which updates recommendations for treating high blood pressure. 

With the pressures of high-visibility responsibilities, LeFevre maintains a can-do attitude about his workload and the realization that IOM membership means more service. 

Family doctor   

After caring for patients for 27 years, LeFevre still looks forward to going to clinic. If a baby cries during a visit, he’ll walk around holding the child in his arms like a football. To interact with tots, he gets down on the floor to play. And children love it when he quacks like Donald Duck. 

“Patients adore Dr. LeFevre,” says Jinnie Deakins, LPN, his office nurse since he began practicing in 1984. “All patients get the same care from him, whether they’re a homeless person or a president.”  

Despite the time involved, LeFevre still delivers babies. It’s hard to quit obstetrics. “In the family life cycle, two of the most important times — and the most bonding experiences — are life and death. And there are many opportunities in between. I enjoy all ages and the relationships you form with patients who trust you,” he says.

John and Sally Blass and family — their children, grandchildren and even John’s mother, now deceased — have been LeFevre’s patients for years, through well checks, prenatal visits, critical care and emergencies.

John credits LeFevre for saving his life during an office visit when John had a heart problem and didn’t know it.

“He’s taken care of four generations of our family. That doesn’t happen a lot anymore. We say that’s real family practice,” Sally says.

Sharon Cornelison, RN, a retired colleague of LeFevre, appreciates his comprehensive, compassionate care for her husband, who has Parkinson’s disease.

“Dr. LeFevre is respectful of patients and good in sharing decision-making. He understands how complex chronic care is. He outlines options for people who struggle with a health problem they will have to live with for the rest of their lives,” she says.

Administrator

Dr. Mike LeFevre in his element

Michael LeFevre took on the role of chief medical informatics officer for MU Health Care in 2003 and has helped to streamline patient care with information technology.

LeFevre heads the clinical activities of the Department of Family and Community Medicine and has had many roles in the institution. “He has few peers with his type of analytical mind,” says MU colleague and fellow IOM member Dr. Jack Colwill.

As vice chair and medical director of MU family medicine, LeFevre oversees eight practices — three at Green Meadows Clinic, one each at the Woodrail, Smiley Lane and Keene Street clinics, and two at rural clinics, in Fulton and Fayette. That translates to 95,000 patient visits a year.

LeFevre manages the clinics with the goal of providing the best possible care for patients while simultaneously offering students a quality environment for learning. “It has to be first for the patients. You can’t teach people to provide good care by providing bad care,” he says.

A great deal of what inspires LeFevre is his grounding in the department, where he finds supportive, intellectually stimulating colleagues and role models who share values and goals. 

“I don’t think I could ask for a better group of colleagues. Walking down the aisle of photos in family medicine is like walking through a who’s-who in family medicine nationally,” he says.

LeFevre graduated twice from MU – in engineering and medicine – followed by an MU residency and fellowship in family medicine. He says he just couldn’t leave Mizzou; it won every comparison he made to other universities.

Innovator 

Largely because of LeFevre’s efforts, University of Missouri Health Care has been named one of the most wired hospitals in the nation by the Hospitals & Health Networks magazine Most Wired.

LeFevre thought twice about accepting the role of chief medical informatics officer for MU Health Care in 2003. He knew the leadership of a proposed electronic health-records project would be a huge task.   

What enticed him was the idea of improving patient care through use of information technology, which he considered “embarrassingly in the dark ages” compared to other industries. So when charged with upgrading the records system, he set out to help replace much of the phone and paper communication and record storage with computer-based technology.

LeFevre played a key role in forming a partnership between MU Health Care and Cerner, a company focused on improving health care through IT services. The collaboration, known as the Tiger Institute, is implementing innovative technology and communication methods to improve patient care.

Much has changed in MU Health Care since LeFevre received his medical degree in 1979. Instead of reading paper charts, doctors can retrieve updated patient information online and through phone apps. They routinely use laptops to enter summaries of clinic visits, and they access major medical journals electronically for answers to questions.

Communication has improved for MU Health Care patients as well. By establishing Web-based “health portals,” they can link to their health-care providers through secure e-mail to ask questions, request appointments and prescription refills, read parts of their medical records, check a list of their medications and review lab results.  

“As long as what physicians are doing is replacing the telephone, it’s time saving on both sides, for patients and for providers. But it will not replace an office visit when a visit is necessary,” LeFevre says.

LeFevre: “I’m as Missouri as you can get.”

If an institution can take credit for getting somebody into the IOM, the University of Missouri should do so, LeFevre says of his recent honor. “Mizzou has afforded me the opportunity from college on to develop the skills needed to serve in the Institute of Medicine. It should take credit for that,” he says.

LeFevre considers a good portion of his job through the years has been as an agent of change, seeing how things might be better and moving toward better.

Still, change is hard, even for an agent of change. “I’m in the 12-step program for giving up OB. It’s a young person’s sport,” LeFevre says.

To end his work in obstetrics, LeFevre would have to stop taking prenatal patients. He hasn’t done that yet.

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012