It is obvious that Karen Evans, DO (COM '00), loves her work as a primary care physician. You can tell by the way she lights up when she talks about her patients. Primary care is a love she shares with her father, Robert Frayser, DO (COM '87). When Evans was a teenager in Hoisington, Kansas, her father was a busy primary care doctor and her mother was his nurse. Karen worked the front desk at the medical office. She even set up and ran the clinic’s first computer system and later helped set up the university clinic’s computer system at Kansas State University (K-State) when she was an undergraduate student there.
When it came time to choose a medical school, Evans saw her father’s alma mater, KCU, as the clear choice because of the wonderful experiences he had there. After graduating from KCU in 2000, Evans completed her residency in Arizona. Her father joined her in 2003, and together they opened a family practice and worked side-by-side for six years.
When both Evans and Frayser moved back to Kansas, their careers took different paths. Evans has worked for LMH Health in Lawrence, Kansas, for the past 13 years. She is a primary care physician at Mt. Oread Family Practice. “My favorite part of primary care is the relationships that I’ve built up with my patients and their families,” she said. “We become a part of their family, in a sense. When it comes to hard times in a person’s life, we’re the ones they come to for advice, for motivation, for confidence in making some very difficult choices. I enjoy having the opportunity to help people through times in their lives when they really need help.”
The strong, trusting relationships she has built with her patients helped her get them through the COVID-19 pandemic, both from a physical and psychological perspective. She was able to counsel people about their care according to their particular circumstances, needs and risk factors. She considers it a privilege to be in that position.
Evans often plays the role of navigator for patients who feel overwhelmed by conflicting advice or complicated medical systems. “Patients may get differing opinions, and they need someone to help them bring it all together. They need someone they trust to help them,” she said. One way that she is able to help patients gain clarity is by using electronic medical records to consult with specialists in her facility.
Though she is not in charge of setting up computer systems at this stage in her career, she appreciates how digital records can unite a patient’s care team. “Many people can be involved in a patient’s care, and we [primary care physicians] are still the gatekeepers and need to keep everyone on the same page.”
Over the course of her career, Evans has seen an increase in patients looking for female primary care physicians. So far, supply has not met demand. “We’re very much needed, very much sought after. Any time we can grow our primary care field, it’s a win for everyone,” she said. Evans chose primary care because she wanted to be a mom and take care of her family.
She has three daughters – triplets who are now in college. Her advice to medical students and residents is to choose a specialty that allows them to have the life they want. “Find a way to balance your professional and personal life so you can always enjoy what you’re doing. Give yourself the opportunity to do the things you enjoy, like hobbies,” she said.
Outside of the clinic, Evans is involved in osteopathic associations at the state and national levels. She was president of the Kansas Association of Osteopathic Medicine (KAOM) from April 2021 to April 2022. The focus during her tenure was on rebuilding and growing membership in the association and on naming a new executive director after the previous executive director retired.
“The new executive director is full of energy and new ideas,” says Evans. “Over the next few years, the KAOM spring conference is going to rotate to different parts of the state so we can reach doctors all over Kansas.” Both spring and fall conferences are open to students, residents, physicians, nurse practitioners or any professional who wants continuing medical education credits.
Evans has had the opportunity to serve as a Kansas delegate to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) for the last 10 years. “It has been a great experience to participate with all of these other DO's who are politically active and love being DO's. It’s very motivating to participate with a group of physicians like that,” she said. Delegates serve on committees and vote on resolutions relevant to DO's nationwide. One high-profile resolution in recent years was the merger of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) and the AOA with the MD programs’ Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The merger resulted in a unified ACGME match for students from both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools.
A special part of Evans’ work life in the last year has been working with her dad again. “He came out of retirement to fill in at my office, so it’s been really fun to have the opportunity to spend time working side by side with him again before he fully retires,” she said. When asked about passing down the DO family legacy to her daughters, Evans smiles, “We always hope.” One daughter is a chemistry major, one is a musical theater major and the other is interested in forensic science and psychology.
“You never know where they will end up. It will be fun to see where they go,” she said. Regardless of her daughters’ professional paths, Evans will continue to impact the lives of future physicians. She, along with her father and brother, created the Frayser Family Scholarship Fund. Each year, thanks to the scholarship, one K-State student is able to attend KCU-COM and pursue their dream of practicing medicine with financial support.
Evans also continues her legacy by sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm with the next generation of medical students. “My hope for the future is to help train more students here in Lawrence. I have helped students who were in need of primary care rotations, and I’d also like to network that out into more specialty rotations. We’ve got a great group of DOs here who are very interested and willing to teach, so I’d like to help that grow,” she said. Teaching students and residents is a pleasure for Evans. “Their excitement makes me excited. It’s a lot of fun to see someone at the beginning stages of their career all fired up about medicine. They motivate me to be a better physician, especially when they can see how much fun primary care can be.”