By Karen Billing
Longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident and retired physician Dr. Leonard Glass is a leading founder of the new company Physician Retraining and Reentry (PRR), which strives to address a growing doctor shortage in this country by getting retired physicians back into practice.
Along with Dr. Stanley Pappelbaum, Glass created the educational platform of PRR in collaboration with UC San Diego Medical School.
“We take retired doctors of any speciality, including surgery, and retrain them to do adult outpatient family medicine and we do it all online,” Glass said. “It’s never been done before.”
The program has only been live for a couple of days and they have had two retired physicians in their 70s sign up, a retired plastic surgeon and a retired neurosurgeon.
By taking the course, Glass said retired doctors can help solve a very serious problem in the national healthcare delivery system; get back to helping take care of people; and earn a modest financial boost for their retirement nest egg.
Glass, 78, has been a Rancho Santa Fe resident since 1981. A native of Maryland, he attended University of Maryland Medical School and completed his general surgery residency there. He then spent two years in Vietnam as an Army Captain and as a surgeon in the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH).
Glass went to the University of Michigan and studied plastic and reconstructive surgery and then worked for UC San Diego for most of the 1990s. Before and after that he worked in private practice as a plastic surgeon before retiring in 2005.
Glass said he spent the first part of his retirement resting and enjoying different hobbies until about three years ago when he read an intriguing article in the Wall Street Journal about a shortage of family doctors.
“The article said — and I have since validated its information — there was a shortage of 33,000 family doctors,” Glass said. “Now, with the Affordable Healthcare Act, that puts another 32 million people who previously had no insurance into the network looking for doctors. Every day, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare. If you add the normal attrition to that 33,000 deficit and Baby Boomers and affordable healthcare, the thinking is that within 10 years the deficit could well double to 65,000 doctors and no one knows what to do about it.”
Glass started to think about a potential solution and spent the next few years really perfecting it.
A dedicated problem solver, Glass said, “You have to think ahead, you can’t keep looking in the rearview mirror.”
In collaboration with UCSD, PRR has worked on developing its curriculum for the last two and a half years. Two national figures in teaching and practicing family medicine, doctors and UCSD professors William Norcross and David Bazzo designed the curriculum of educational material, exams and a standardized patient competence assessment. Glass said the result is a “terrific” program and an “excellent” testing system.
Normally the method to change specialties takes about three years and thousands of dollars.
“We don’t think that’s necessary because we’re dealing with seasoned physicians who understand patients and disease processes and can be trained online in a matter of months,” Glass said.
Additionally, other retraining services simply bring physicians up to date in the speciality they retired from but PRR can take any doctor — no matter what field of practice —and update their skills to allow them to return to practice in the specialty of primary care.
With their curriculum, physicians can go at their own pace, taking anywhere from two months to a year to complete the course.
“We think there’s tens of thousands of retired physicians out there,” Glass said. “There’s an excess sitting around twiddling their thumbs and playing too much golf. This is an opportunity to do something exciting, enjoyable, helping those in need and solving a national healthcare crisis.”
Glass said they are in the process of setting up a placement division to help get jobs that are geographically desirable for the retrained physicians, as well as play to their priorities which include part time, no administrative duties and no nights or weekend call responsibilities.
“Some might say, ‘Who will hire them?’ But not many people know there are 7,000 federally funded community clinics now in the United States seeing about 20 million patients a year,” Glass said. “They all need doctors.”
Glass said there is also need for doctors in medical schools, college and university health clinics, VA facilities, hospital-assembled primary care groups, and retail providers such as CVS and Walgreens.
Glass hopes PRR will help do its part to create that link between the thousands of retired doctors and the current shortage that is only growing.
“I hope that our company can achieve so much success that nationally others will copy us,” Glass said. “I think that will happen.”
To learn more, visit www.prrprogram.com.