In this piece, The Wall Street Journal interviews our President & Founder, Dr. Leonard Glass, about the Physician Retraining & Reentry program and his efforts to positively impact the growing physician shortage.
Wall Street Journal: “A Retired Surgeon Takes on a New Medical Mission”
Former surgeon forms an organization that retrains retired specialists to be generalists
The U.S. is facing a looming doctor shortage. With a surge of baby boomers enrolling in Medicare and millions of newly insured citizens seeking physicians under the Affordable Care Act, there simply aren’t enough general practitioners to go around. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates the U.S. will be short by as many as 31,000 primary-care doctors by 2025.
Leonard Glass, a retired surgeon, had an idea about who could help fill these much-needed shoes: older medical specialists. For example, many surgeons retire due to diminishing eyesight or fine-motor problems, while obstetricians often burn out in their 60s after decades of Sleepless Nights. Yet these doctors are still capable of providing general medical care. Dr. Glass himself retired from practicing surgery in 2005 when a neck injury began limiting his dexterity.
“I kept reading about this impending doctor shortage, and I looked around at many of my retired colleagues and thought, why not get some of these doctors back to work?” says Dr. Glass, now 80.
So in 2013, he Launched Physician Retraining & Reentry, or PRR, to help retrain medical specialists in adult outpatient primary care. He funded the startup with his own savings and investments from friends and family, and didn’t primarily set out to make a Profit. “I just had to do something to ensure my kids and grandkids would have access to good medical care,” Dr. Glass says. “It became my obsession to help fix the doctor shortage.”
PRR is essentially an online training program, helping medical specialists get up to speed on the latest primary-care techniques. Specialists are already licensed in general medicine, but most haven’t practiced it since their residencies, so they want a “refresher course,” says Dr. Glass.
The self-paced program includes interactive tests and live role-playing, with actors posing as patients. It takes four months to a year to complete. “We teach everything from the latest diagnostic techniques to medical record-keeping,” says Dr. Glass, who works about 30 hours a week at PRR.
Doctors who complete the program receive 180 hours of continuing-education credit and help finding jobs. PRR has only four full-time paid employees (Dr. Glass and his brother-in-law, who Serves as CFO, don’t receive salaries), and one works solely on job placement.
“Many doctors want to work part time, and some want to give back by working at public clinics, while others want full-time posts,” says Dr. Glass. Only 30 doctors out of the 130 who have entered the PRR program have completed it so Far, but Dr. Glass is hopeful hundreds more will. “We built the technology platform so up to 3,000 doctors could take it per year,” says Dr. Glass. If doctors can’t afford the $9,750 course fee, PRR offers no-interest financing.
“Being a primary-care doctor is medicine at its finest, but many doctors lose sight of that purpose after practicing a specialty for decades,” Dr. Glass says. “We help doctors get back to the root of why they went to medical school in the first place: to take care of people.”