Ready to Get Back Into Clinical Practice?

Physician Re-entry Program Aims to Ease Physician Shortage

September 01, 2015 04:15 pm Sheri Porter

Kate Gibson, M.D., and her husband, Brad Steele, M.D., gather their four sons for a holiday photo in 2012. Not long after the photo was taken, Gibson started thinking about restarting her medical career that she said she had put on hold "when it became impossible to manage that many kids and activities."

Sometimes, physicians need a boost to restart a successful clinical career ended too early by choice or put on hold by life's circumstances.

An online educational program -- Physician Retraining & Re-entry( -- founded by retired surgeon and former University of California-San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine professor Leonard Glass, M.D., aims to help physicians get back to work and, at the same time, put a dent in the nation's shortage of physicians trained to deliver primary care medicine.

Physicians not already trained in family medicine who choose to enter the program certainly can't learn the full spectrum of prenatal to geriatric medicine in which family physicians are trained during their intensive three-year residency programs -- but they do come away able to deliver an abbreviated version of primary care to ambulatory adults.

Story Highlights
  • Physician Retraining & Re-entry is a California-based program designed to ease the nation's physician shortage.
  • The program is open to licensed physicians of any specialty who successfully complete an intensive online curriculum of 15 modules that cover a variety of topics; participants must travel to California for the final exam.
  • The program has enrolled nearly 130 physicians and, to date, 20 percent of them have completed the course.

Family Physician's Road to Re-entry

Kate Gibson, M.D., of South Pasadena, Calif., completed her family medicine residency in 1994 and began practicing the specialty she loves. For the first decade of her career, she and her husband, an orthopedic surgeon, juggled the demands of practice with a rapidly growing family.

After the birth of their fourth son, Kate Gibson decided to "take a break for a couple of years." That break stretched into six years and then was extended further when Gibson accepted an offer to teach first- and second-year medical students at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.

Then, some four years into teaching, Gibson knew she needed a change.

She told AAFP News, "I wanted to get back into clinical practice; I really loved teaching but felt like I was a little bit 'out of the game' having been out of practice for so long.

"All this time I had maintained my license and taken my boards a couple of times," said Gibson. But after running into recredentialing issues with potential employers, Gibson began searching for a physician re-entry program and discovered Physician Retraining & Re-entry.

Leonard Glass, M.D., retired surgeon and founder of Physician Retraining & Re-Entry

"We don't teach pediatrics, surgery, anesthesia or hospitalist work," confirmed Glass in an interview with AAFP News. "We do cover everything else via an online curriculum divided into 15 courses, or modules," that cover topics ranging from cardiology to dermatology to electronic health records.

"We've had 125 to 130 enrollees, and about 20 percent of those have completed the program. On completion, UCSD awards them 180 hours of CME and we award a certificate of completion," said Glass. Average time to complete the program is about six months.

Designing Curriculum

It's important to note that the program works collaboratively with the UCSD School of Medicine, so it's no surprise that Glass recruited his leadership team from the university where he worked for many years.

Family physician Kate Gibson, M.D., completes a patient exam during her re-entry fellowship with the family medicine department at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

Family physicians are integral to the curriculum team.

For instance, David Bazzo, M.D., serves as the program's chief medical officer, and William Norcross, M.D., sits on the board of advisors. Both are professors in UCSD's Department of Family Medicine and Public Health and both worked to create the retraining program's curriculum, according to Glass.

Furthermore, at least eight of the dozen physicians tapped by Bazzo to write curriculum for the 15 modules also are UCSD family physicians.

Glass noted that physicians are tested for competency as they progress through the program. The final step is one-day practical exam administered in California that is similar to step two of the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination.

Free Webinar: 'Physician Re-entry 101'

The American Academy of Pediatrics, in conjunction with its Physician Re-Entry into the Workforce Project( has released a new webinar to help physicians who have left practice or are contemplating stepping away from practice for an extended period of time.

The free webinar, titled "Physician Re-entry 101"( is intended to help physicians of all specialties consider and work through workforce re-entry questions.

Returning a Physician to Practice

Gibson's boys now range in age from 16 to 23, and her career has turned in a direction she likes. She completed the re-entry program a few months ago and, by her own choosing, spent several months shadowing physicians of various specialties to complete her clinical "tune-up."

"I had previously done a lot of pediatrics and gynecology work, and so I really wanted to get some (updated) pediatric experience and also brush up on some of the procedures I used to do," said Gibson.

"By the end of next month, I should be full faculty here (the Keck School of Medicine of USC) and working in the clinic 80 percent of the time," she added.

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