What Does a Modern Elder in Medicine Look Like?

October 10, 2021

What Does a Modern Elder in Medicine Look Like?

May 29, 2023

The Encore Physicians program matches retired doctors who want to continue practicing medicine part-time with community health centers in the San Francisco Bay Area. These "modern elders" are paid for providing direct patient care and mentoring less experienced clinicians for a few days per week over the course of a year.

The program solves a critical need in low-income communities, where too many people are uninsured or underinsured and depend on community health centers for care. And it packs a double punch, providing retired doctors with continued purpose and impact.

Dr. Jimmy McLean joined La Clinica Pittsburg Medical last year after practicing emergency medicine for nearly 30 years. "I loved the challenge and the energy of the speciality," he says, "but over time I got tired of working in such a stressful environment and chose to retire."

After a few years, McLean says he missed seeing patients and wanted to do something meaningful with medicine. "When I was approached about becoming an Encore Physician," he recalls, "I enthusiastically said yes."

One of his favorite parts of the job is mentoring younger clinicians. He is disciplined in his approach, explaining that he would never "glove up" when teaching residents how to sew during surgery. "It would be too easy for me to just take it out of their hands and do it myself," he says. "This way I have to explain to them how to do it."

McLean, now 71, makes it known to younger clinicians that they can always come to him with questions, and says he tries to approach those interactions as teaching moments — never telling them what to think or do. "I ask them questions and try to guide them in approaching it in a logical manner," he says.

And he learns from younger colleagues, too. "We bounce things off of each other," he says. "I learn from them and they learn from me — it’s collaborative. I could see myself doing this for a while."

- Sarah McKinney Gibson

The Encore Physicians program is expanding in the Bay Area. If you’re interested in becoming an Encore Physician or bringing the program to a community health center in your area, contact Dr. Mike Rizzo at mrizzo@encore.org.

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