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Freshmen to Watch: Lisa Thomas

The Missouri Times is speaking to new lawmakers this session. Get to know more of the “Freshmen to Watch” here.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Prior to working in the statehouse, Rep. Lisa Thomas served as a psychiatrist for nearly two decades providing inpatient, outpatient, and residential treatment care. 

Thomas most recently practiced medicine at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital (VA) in Columbia, retiring in 2016. Now, aside from her legislative duties, Thomas does part-time work as an administrative psychiatrist and serves as the medical director for the Missouri Physicians Health Program. 

Thomas views her position as a legislator as an expansion of her previous role.

“As a physician, you identify problems, you do research, come up with solutions, you collaborate with patients and colleagues, and then you educate, advocate,” Thomas told The Missouri Times. “I don’t think it’s that much different a process; it’s on a different scale.” 

Thomas represents HD 124 which encompasses parts of Miller and Camden counties. She won the Republican primary election for HD 124 by nearly a 5 percent margin. 

Thomas has owned a home at the Lake of the Ozarks since 2013, but due to being on call at the VA hospital, she has only lived in her district for a couple of years. 

Ultimately, Thomas left the VA hospital in order to increase her involvement in politics, saying she recognized political limitations as a federal or state employee. Thomas said she feels as though today’s America is not the country she grew up in and that is what drove her to the statehouse. 

While Thomas is proud to be one of the few physicians in the statehouse, she would like to see more variety on the house floor. 

“We need bankers, farmers, and gas station attendants. We need everybody because the diversity of what we deal with is across the spectrum and beyond things you would ever have thought about,” Thomas said. 

Thomas would like her constituents to know that she is a mouthpiece for their views and that she wants their input. 

“If for some reason I am not voting the way that they want, I absolutely want their feedback, because that’s why I am here, to do their bidding,” Thomas said. 

Thomas filed HB 1029 this year which would dedicate part of Highway 54 in Miller County as “Deputy Sheriff Casey L Shoemate Memorial Highway,” something her predecessor had worked on before her. The bill has been referred to the Transportation Committee. 

Thomas decided not to file any other bills this year to dedicate her focus to learning the ropes of the statehouse.

“As a physician, our tradition is when you change, even within medicine, you start from the ground up, and you learn and you move back through the system,” Thomas said. “I am a newbie, I’m a freshman, and so I felt like I had a lot to learn.”

Thomas serves on the Health and Mental Health Policy Committee and the Professional Registration and Licensing Committee as well as the Special Committee on Tourism. 

“I’m very excited about my committee assignments because I feel like it would have been a disservice not to be on something that was health or mental health or physician and science-related,” Thomas said. “Also, given where I actually reside, the tourism issue is certainly relevant.”