An online program created in collaboration with the UC San Diego School of Medicine faculty aims to help address the nation’s shortage of primary care physicians, a critical health-care issue highlighted by the Association of American Medical Colleges on Tuesday.

Created by educators at the medical school and primary care physicians who are renowned experts in physician training and assessment, Physician Retraining and Reentry (PRR) provides physicians of all backgrounds, retired and otherwise, the tools needed to offer adult outpatient primary care in their current practices or at understaffed clinics across the country.

Our program -- an online, for-profit education and training venture -- also has given new hope to disabled surgeons who are no longer able to practice their craft but who are far from voluntary retirement. While they cannot perform surgery because of dexterity issues, they are fully capable and eager to diagnose and treat patients in primary care settings.

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After formally launching a year ago, our program has generated more than 1,000 inquiries from physicians of all backgrounds in nearly every state. Most (900) have inquired about the program in the last six months. This includes inquiries from U.S. military physicians who have served internationally and are hoping to secure jobs in primary care when they return home.

Physicians from cities across the country who have successfully practiced everything from internal medicine to urology, neurology, cardiology, psychiatry and obstetrics and gynecology are actively working their way through the program in the hope of returning to doing what they love most about medicine – helping people in need. [The cost of the program is $8,500 per student.]

Today, Physician Retraining & Reentry has more than 70 students, with about 20 more in the pipeline, seven approaching completion and 13 graduates who are either employed or pursuing jobs with the help of the program’s staff. Upon graduation, program participants receive 180 hours of continuing medical education credits from the UC San Diego School of Medicine, which helps highlight their updated skills for today’s patients.

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Although our program is not a complete solution to the physician shortage, we hope that by delivering training online it will eventually be able to contribute upwards of 2,000 primary care physicians to the health care system every year.

With approximately 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day and becoming Medicare eligible, and millions more gaining access to health care due to the Affordable Care Act,  we are hoping to have a positive impact on the nation’s health-care system.

Leonard W. Glass, a retired clinical professor of plastic surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine, is president and founder of Physician Retraining and Reentry.

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