Ronald Bergman, D.O.’76, M.D., FICS, FAACS, and Bryan Folkers, D.O.’04, FACOS, both love practicing in their specialty and teaching future surgeons. That motivated them to take on the meetings, paperwork and processes of another labor of love: creating a new plastic and reconstructive surgery fellowship, Iowa’s first in many years.
In fact, it’s the first such training program since Bergman co-founded — with pioneering plastic surgeon James Stallings, M.D., and Niru Pandeya, D.O.’69, FAAOS, FAACS, FICS — the nation’s first osteopathic plastic surgery residency in the 1970s.
“It took the same paperwork, politics and meetings to get that program off the ground back in the 1970s,” Bergman says. “But if you’re persistent, you can make it happen.”
He decided to become a plastic surgeon after hearing a lecture by the late Dr. Stallings on the DMU campus and then later doing a rotation with him. He served as director of the Mercy Limb Trauma and Microsurgery Center in Des Moines for more than 20 years and, in 1982, founded Bergman Cosmetic Surgery. Folkers met him when Bergman participated in a specialist panel at DMU. The two joined forces by forming Bergman Folkers Plastic, Reconstructive and Hand Surgery in 2011. Since then, they’ve flourished in their partnership and in their friendship, aptly named DHB.
“Every Friday, we operate all day together. That’s not the best thing to do financially, but it revitalizes our partnership and enhances our communication,” Bergman says.
It likely fuels their passion for their profession, too. Reflecting on the specialty in their practice, housed in a beautiful, historic mansion on Des Moines’ Grand Avenue, Folkers calls plastic and reconstructive surgery “an art form”; Bergman says it’s a specialty in which “you’re limited only by your imagination.”
“I have a procedure where if a patient is missing a thumb, I can take a big toe and make it into a thumb,” he notes. “We work to restore our patients’ functionality as much as possible from physical, emotional and psychological standpoints.”
Their new fellowship, with Bergman and Folkers as directors and Des Moines’ Mercy Medical Center as its supporting institution, welcomed its first fellow on July 1. Another fellow will be accepted next summer and a third in 2016. Bergman said the program received a “flood of applicants”; qualified candidates are interviewed via phone, with the top applicants invited to the practice for a two- to four-week working interview.
Folkers says starting such a program has been one of his goals since his own training in plastic, reconstructive and hand surgery with the South Pointe Hospital/Cleveland Clinic Health System.
“There’s a lot to be said about getting patients back to normal living, working and supporting themselves,” he says. “We want to help provide surgeons with the best training to do so.”