Delivering babies is all in a day’s work for San Francisco-based ob-gyn Laurie Green. But one birth stands out in her mind.
Several years ago, Green, 68, delivered the grandchild of one of her medical school professors and casually asked the mother about the professor’s post-retirement plans. She was surprised to learn he was still searching for a new path to follow.
“Here was this vital, intelligent man who couldn’t find a meaningful way to continue utilizing his medical skills and expertise,” Green says.
Sadly, Green learned that the professor’s situation wasn’t unique. As president of the Harvard Medical School Alumni Association from 2013 to 2014, Green had heard from many physicians who were retired or semiretired and wanted to continue providing patient care without handling the business side.
Green also realized the U.S. was facing a serious shortage of physicians. A 2017 study conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicted the U.S. will need an extra 40,800 to 104,900 physicians by the year 2030. And as the boomers age, the AAMC says their chronic medical needs will tax an already strained system.
“About half of U.S. health centers serve patients who live in low-income and rural areas where long distances and the scarcity of health care services can make access a challenge,” Green says. “I remember thinking how great it would be if we could tap into the expertise of retired and semiretired physicians to fill in these gaps where doctors are needed most.”
In 2014, Green founded the MAVEN (Medical Alumni Volunteer Expert Network) Project, a multi-state group of volunteer physicians who use telemedicine to offer specialty consultations to primary care providers for underserved patients and offer guidance and support to community health providers. The project currently operates in California, Massachusetts, Florida, New York, Washington and South Dakota and plans to expand nationally. Funding for the project has been provided through community grants and donations.
“Community health clinics often have financial constraints, limited resources and difficulty providing specialty care,” Green says. “We currently have 100 semiretired and retired doctors in our database, and we match them with clinics who need their expertise or invite them to present educational talks to community physicians.”