Meet our Docs: Allen Coffey, M.D., wants to help people feel better about themselves
By Kristy Bleizeffer Apr 17, 2018
Allen Coffey, M.D., F.A.C.S., specialized in plastic surgery because of the diversity of the field. The field encompasses craniofacial reconstruction after severe trauma or cancer, to a tummy tuck for a mom when the crunches don’t help.
“I really like to make people feel better about themselves,” Dr. Coffey said. “The looks on their faces when you take off the bandages is just worth gold.”
Dr. Coffey is now accepting consultations and appointments at Wyoming Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery. He is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and brings nearly 25 years of experience to Casper.
Dr. Coffey completed medical school at Baylor College of Medicine in 1984 followed by six years of general surgery residency. He completed a plastic surgery residency at Baylor, widely regarded as one of the best plastic surgery training programs in the country. In 1993, he served a year as a reconstructive fellow at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Dr. Coffey is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons as well as an active member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
He served as a captain in the Medical Corps, U.S. Army Reserves, for eight years and operated a private practice in Denton, Texas, for more than two decades.
In this interview, he discusses his long career and why he chose Wyoming Medical Center.
Where did you grow up and when did you become interested in medicine?
I grew up in Sanger, Texas, population 1,500 souls. I cannot remember when I wasn’t interested in being a doctor. I remember when they would ask little boys what they wanted to do and my classmates would say fireman, policeman or whatever. I would always say, “I want to be a doctor.”
Does medicine run in your family?
No. The last doctor in my family was Dr. Edmond A. Coffey, and he died in 1895. He is buried right close to where I grew up.
My father did not even finish college. My father is one of the Horatio Alger stories of being homeless after the service and ending up owning the bank, so I knew I did not want to go into business. I did not want to compete with that! No, I wanted to be a doctor ever since I can remember.
Why do you think that was?
I have been asked this on every interview that I have ever had to get into medical school, for residency, for fellowship, for everything: Why did you want to be a doctor? If you don’t mind a glib answer, it’s because I like taking care of people. That is a big facet of my personality. My wife will tell you, “he takes care of.” That’s what I do.
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Where did you go to medical school?
After graduating high school in Sanger, I went to Baylor University in Waco. Then I went to Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in their three-year program. My father had four kids in college and me, so I painted houses to help pay for medical school.
Why did you decide to focus on plastic surgery as your career progressed?
There is so much you can do in plastic surgery, from treating burns to reconstructing craniofacial abnormalities in kids. You can do breast reconstruction, or facial reconstruction for cancer, or you can do cosmetic surgery. I had a mentor in Denton, Texas, named Dr. Peggy Dyer. She was one of the first female plastic surgeons in the country, and she was a very close friend of our family’s. She inspired me a lot.
I really like to make people feel better about themselves. My favorite operation is the “mommy makeover” because it directly reverses what pregnancy does to a woman’s body, that exercise and diet will never be able to accomplish. The looks on their faces when you take off the bandages is just priceless. I have had women burst into tears when you take off the tummy tuck bandages and they see flat again after years or multiple babies, because that is not fixable with crunches. I just really like that smile on a woman’s face when she likes the way she looks.
Tell us about your military career.
I was a captain in the Army Reserve Medical Corps, and I served for eight years. I signed up in 1992 after Desert Storm because but my family has a tradition of military service. I have framed honorable discharge certificates for the last three generations of my family.
It was rewarding work. We were caring for people who had gotten hurt pretty badly, and we tried to put them back together the best we could. At the time, I was board certified in general surgery as well as plastic surgery.
You also did several medical mission trips in Mexico. Tell us about those.
In 1995, I started going to Mexico with our church. We would go every year over spring break. We would go down to a little town, and we would take care of the indigent people. When we found cases that we could do, and if we found an operating room that would let us do it, then we would operate on them. I did some stuff I cannot believe I actually did it now.
Oh, like a pancreatic cyst gastrostomy, this major abdominal operation that I had done when I was a general surgeon but not as a plastic surgeon. Big abdominal operations. I had a guy with this huge tumor on his leg, and we operated on cleft lips, gallbladders and hernias. We did whatever needed to be done.
We would just go out and treat the outlying villages. I had to amputate a guy’s ear because it was gangrenous and the local ER had sent him home because he could not pay. We had to do it in a mud-floored hut with a desk lamp and a scalpel clamped in pliers. The man recovered well.
What were those days like?
It was busy. We would see 40 or 50 patients a day and we would do as many cases as we could get the hospital to do.
And how many doctors were with you?
Me, my wife and maybe one other doctor. But there was a pile of nurses and college students for the brunt of the work. The dirty secret about missionary work is that it is fun.
What do you mean?
Well everybody says that is so good of you to do that, it is such a Christian thing to do. No, it is fun. You go down there, and they hand you their kid and they trust you do it. You treat the child, hand him back, and they say thank you and go home. There are no lawyers, no paperwork, no insurance companies and no billing.
It is just straight medicine. It is the closest thing to the reason I became a doctor that I have found. It is just medicine, and it is a lot of fun.
Why did you come to Casper?
When I started my practice in 1994, Denton, Texas, was the size Casper is now, and I was the only plastic surgeon there. It has since exploded and become part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. My wife and I moved three times, always further out to the country, and the city kept creeping up on us. When they called me this summer and told me about the opportunity in Casper, I was very interested.
Casper is a small town, but it has a good hospital and good doctors. It seemed like a win-win. I want to take care of patients, but I was tired of running a private business. My wife and I both love Casper.
We were really looking for a sign. We were praying God would give us a sign as we got off the plane and came for the interview. We came over the hill and saw Casper and my wife said: “Oh. I like this.” Everybody has been wonderful here.
What do you think about Wyoming Medical Center?
Wyoming Medical Center as a hospital seems great. One of the reasons I liked it is the number and breadth of medical specialists here. When I interviewed, I met with a bariatric surgeon and Denton just got one of those a year ago. Then I found out there is a neurosurgeon here, which is unheard of for a town of 50,000 people.
What would you like people to know about you and your practice?
I am conservative when it comes to surgery. I do not operate because I can, and I don’t operate if I don’t think you’re a good candidate for the procedure. There is nothing worse than operating on somebody and it not turning out the way you want or there being a complication. It is physically painful for a surgeon to have a complication.