PRR Prescription for Success: Dr. Michael LaRocque
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015.
Michael LaRocque M.D. spent nearly three decades running a successful private urology practice before he decided the time was right to retire. After several years in retirement, however, he decided he wanted to put his skills back to good use.
“I always thought primary care was an interesting field, and I was ready to make more productive use of my free time,” said Dr. LaRocque.
A recent graduate of Physician Retraining & Reentry, an online program created in collaboration with UC San Diego School of Medicine faculty, Dr. LaRocque was able to refresh his skills so that he could comfortably and competently practice adult outpatient primary care.
Upon completing the PRR program, Dr. LaRocque secured a job in primary care at a federally qualified health center near his home. He now works an average of 30 hours per week — a far cry from the demand of his former career. According to Dr. LaRocque, “It’s wonderful to be seeing patients again, and to be making income without the responsibility of running an entire practice.”
We sat down with Dr. LaRocque to learn more about his experience with the PRR program and the exciting position he’s landed since graduating.
Tell us about your experience with PRR program.
I enjoyed participating in the PRR program. It provided me a comprehensive online review through UpToDate of a broad range of medical topics, along with connections to other articles on related subjects within UpToDate that I could pursue on my own to deepen my understanding of the topics presented. I could proceed on my own schedule and at my own pace. I chose to devote two to three hours a day, five to seven days a week to my studies, allowing me to not interrupt my ongoing other activities. I completed the online course in approximately nine months with that approach. I already understood much of what I was learning but the course allowed me to fill in the blanks and have a better overall understanding of the topics covered. Additionally, if any problems or questions arose as I proceeded, PRR staff was there to readily address my questions or concerns.
What did you like best about the program?
I really appreciated that I was able to work from home, so that I could proceed on my own without travel, lectures or meetings. I felt as I went along that the program was well thought out, organized and administered. I had already been an independently practicing physician for many years and I did not feel a need for hand holding or one-on-one guidance. Additionally, I felt as I went along that the program was presented in a way that I could proceed confidently, feeling that I would reach my goal of becoming a family physician through my training.
What did you find most challenging?
The most challenging aspect of the program was that it was thorough, detailed and comprehensive. This was no cakewalk. It took me nine months to complete, taking notes as I went along, reviewing the notes, and then taking challenging tests after each module, without being able to proceed to the next module without success in the module I had just completed. But that also reassured me as I passed each test that I had been successful.
Was there anything that surprised you about the program?
Once I understood the program and followed it, I had no surprises.
What did you think of the final exam and the practicum?
The final exam I felt was fair, reasonable and comprehensive. That is what I expected. I was somewhat apprehensive in going into the practicum, but once I met the physicians who tested me, I felt comfortable and confident that my years of clinical practice would show my competence and that this would not be a barrier for me. That proved to be true and, actually, it was a fun and confidence-building experience for me. The doctors who examined me were fun and enjoyable to interact with. I started to feel that I would, once again, be a colleague in practice instead of a retiree! It proved to be a great stepping-stone in my pursuit of a clinical position.
How long have you been working since you completed the PRR program?
I have been working at a community clinic for 13 months now. The time has passed quickly!
Tell me about your daily work routine.
When I started my job, I was offered a variety of possible work schedules of various lengths. I chose to work a 32-hour week. This has provided me a nice salary, four weeks of paid vacation, sick leave, meeting time away and a 403b plan, among other benefits. I spend about two to three paid hours a week from home reviewing lab reports, consultations, and ER and hospitalization reports, and arranging appropriate follow-up reports for patients about test results.
I see a wide range of medical problems from simple infections, injuries, skin abscesses, ingrown toenails and pain related issues to more complex problems such as diabetes, thyroid and hypertension management. Medical assistants help by getting patients ready to be seen, checking their vital signs, translating for me when needed and administering immunizations. They also arrange for follow-up visits and X-rays that I order. I order all X-rays, labs, referrals and medications. We see a lot of patients, so the days are always busy.
What do you like best about your new job?
We serve an underserved, mostly Latino population. Most do not speak English. I especially enjoy feeling that I am helping these patients in a very meaningful way, evaluating and treating them before their problems become more serious or acute, or require hospitalization. Some need hospitalization, which we arrange when they might have otherwise waited until the problem became much worse. I also enjoy just knowing that I am again using knowledge and skills, which I was not using in retirement. And I enjoy the interactions with our staff.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I would strongly recommend PRR to other physicians interested in re-entering medical practice in family medicine, either part time or full time. I am well aware, just in our clinic, of how great a need there is for more physicians practicing family medicine, and it’s nice to feel appreciated, and to be a part of the solution to a very severe doctor shortage.
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