March 12, 2004

Symposium to explore talents of retired doctors

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. - Medical and legal professionals from throughout the nation are gathering at Southern Illinois University Carbondale next week to explore how the state and nation can capitalize on the skills and abilities of retired physicians.

The aim of the two-day symposium, "Helping Doctors Help Us," brings together professionals to lay the groundwork for a model program that utilizes retired physicians who volunteer their time and expertise.

The symposium is March 21-22 at the SIUC Student Center and is free to the public.


Internationally acclaimed physician and author Dr. William T. Close is Sunday's keynote speaker. He will also participate in a panel discussion and working group discussion.

Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are encouraged to attend Dr. William T. Close's keynote address and the panel discussion on Sunday, March 21, and the Monday morning working group session at the Student Center. It is expected there will be time after the keynote address Sunday for interviews. For more information, contact Public Policy Institute Development Director Matt Baughman at 618/453-4001.

"The goal is to develop a model program for Illinois that can be adopted by other states in which we could better enable retired doctors to provide service to their communities, in particular, through house calls, so patients who cannot easily access medical care can be seen in their home," said Matt Baughman, development director at the Public Policy Institute.

The Public Policy Institute, SIU School of Medicine, SIUC law school, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are sponsoring the event. Mike Lawrence, interim director of the Public Policy Institute, will serve as moderator.

Close was a physician and surgeon in the Congo for 16 years and part of the team to help define and contain the first outbreak of Ebola in 1976. He became personal physician to President Mobuto and the chief medical officer of the Congolese army.

Now 79, Close calls himself a "semi-retired, semi-impossible village doc" in Big Piney, Wyo., about 100 miles from Jackson Hole. Close and his wife, Bettine, have lived in the Green River Valley area of Wyoming for 26 years, and the county, about the size of Connecticut, is the only one in the state without a hospital.

In January 2000, Close formed a nonprofit organization, Community Home Care Program, using medical personnel and volunteers to provide care for largely homebound patients.

Close's work inspired the late Paul Simon, director of SIUC's Public Policy Institute, to hold the symposium.

"It was something Paul felt compelled to take on as an issue that can make a difference for the people in our region and state, and then also as a way we can develop a model for Illinois that can be duplicated elsewhere," said Baughman.

Close "is the perfect example of how a retired physician can contribute to the physical well-being of people in his community," Baughman said. "He is retired from private practice in some regards ... but he's out there taking on patients and cases and making a positive difference in people's lives. He would rather get out there and be involved in providing care to the people who need it than anything else."

In 2000, there were more than 250,000 retired physicians over 55 years old, according to the National Association of Retired Physicians.

A growing trend is many physicians are retiring at a younger age, but are still able to provide quality services, Baughman said.

There needs to be a way that we can foster their efforts to providing quality care to patients in their own home," he said.

Related issues up for discussion include changing or establishing applicable state laws and policies, insurance coverage, and promoting volunteerism among physicians, Baughman said.

The panel will ask state legislators to review recommendations that come form the working group sessions, Baughman said.

Tess D. Ford, director of SIUC's Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development is a member of the Monday morning working group panel, and believes the idea is "certainly worth looking at." Ford sees the need for such a program, but says there are issues that need addressing, such as malpractice insurance costs.

There are some physicians who retire at a fairly young age but who would still like to serve.

They have tremendous amounts of skill we certainly wouldn't want to lose in the workforce," she said.

The symposium schedule is:

Sunday, March 21


  • 4:30 p.m., Registration, Gallery Lounge.

  • 5 to 6:15 p.m., Keynote address by Dr. William T. Close, Ballroom B.

  • 7:30 p.m., Panel discussion, Ballroom B. Panelists include Dr. C. Gresham Bayne, chairman and founder, The Call Doctor Medical Group Inc., San Diego, Calif., Volunteers in Medicine Clinic board member; Marshall Kapp, professor of psychiatry and professor of community health, Wright State University School of Medicine; Dr. Tom Terrien, co-founder and executive director, National Association of Retired Physicians, Fairfield, Iowa, and Dr. Mark Schueler, Buffalo, Wyo., and Carbondale trial attorney Mark D. Prince.

  • 9 p.m., Public reception, Student Center Gallery Lounge.

Monday, March 22

  • 8:30 a.m. to Noon, Working group discussion on recommendation development, Ballroom A. Working group members includeRob Kane, professor, SIU School of Medicine and an attorney with the Illinois State Medical Society; Tess D. Ford, director, SIUC Rural Health and Social Service Development Center; George O'Neill, executive director, Shawnee Health Services, Carterville; Barbara Scheuer, board member, Volunteers in Medicine Clinic; Elizabeth M. Valencia, SIUC student in M.D./J.D. dual degree program, and Ashish Bajaj, American Medical Association senior physician's program.