Dr. Laurie Rae Green: The MAVEN Project And Telemedicine

Telehealth is bringing quality health care to millions of underserved Americans.

Dr. Laurie Green knows that sometimes an apple a day, doesn’t keep the doctor away. That’s why she’s bringing specialized doctors to underserved community clinics through her telemedicine mission, The MAVEN (Medical Alumni Volunteer Expert Network) Project. Through this non-profit endeavor, Dr. Green pairs retired and semi-retired doctors with patients in communities that need them the most. By using the Internet as an equalizer, Dr. Green is revolutionizing health care, keeping retired medical professionals active in their fields, and helping to make the world a healthier place.

Something Old, Something New

Dr. Green started The MAVEN Project in 2014 to fill the void that retired doctors feel once they put up their stethoscopes. Knowledge shouldn’t go to waste, in her opinion. “Doctors are very social people. They train in large student groups through medical school and are constantly working with teams throughout their professional careers to share their knowledge. Then comes retirement and doctors experience something they usually haven’t experienced — professional and intellectual isolation,” she said.

Most doctors will agree that when it comes to sharing their expertise, it makes them feel better because they’re helping sick people feel better. So, Dr. Green connected these specialized doctors to populations that needed it the most — the ones without insurance, have low-income and a lack of resources usually found at community health centers.

“Many people are under the misimpression that the Affordable Care Act provided health care to almost all Americans.  In fact, the Act provided insurance coverage to many, but access to specialist medical care is nearly impossible for geographically and economically disadvantaged patients who must turn to local community clinics to get any care at all.”

Spread across the United States, these clinics serve over 25 million patients/year, but are staffed by primary care nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and young doctors who lack specialty expertise.  “Without the MAVEN Project,” says Dr. Green, “these patients would face months’ long waits, time away from work and family, and hours of travel to see the caliber of specialist that we bring to their doorstep.”

The idea for The MAVEN Project came to Dr. Green several years ago after she delivered her former professor’s grandchild. The two began talking and her former professor revealed that he was searching for a new path to follow in retirement. Having practiced medicine for over 41 years, she was surprised to learn that “the mentor who had taught her how to be a physician couldn’t figure out what to do with his knowledge, medical skills, and expertise.”

After studying the issue, as good doctors do, she realized that many retired doctors are unsure about their professional futures. She also found that a lot of doctors who are on the brink of retirement wanted to continue patient care and contribute their knowledge to society absent the escalating paperwork demands, long hours, and business pressures of practice.  This, paired with the overwhelming shortage of physicians in the United States, moved Dr. Green to birth a new system which would allow doctors to continue following their passions after they retire.

Doctors Giving Back

Without their white coats, doctors may feel ineffective and unimportant, but The MAVEN Project is eager to get them to work. The Internet removes previous barriers and gives modern doctors the ability to provide quality expertise to people near and far. The doctors volunteer to use telemedicine to provide support and guidance through video conferences and consultations to primary health providers. MAVEN doctors provide consultations and presentations on topics like high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, and more to community health clinics.  Equally important, volunteers mentor primary care providers in the field, helping them manage the stresses of caring for disadvantaged patients with complex medical and socioeconomic challengers.

The primary care facilities need the assistance, and the MAVEN doctors are ready to give it. “There is a constant challenge to provide adequate health care at community health clinics. Usually, the clinics have limited resources, lack of finances, and overall difficulty tending to the population that requires specialty care,” Dr. Green said. To date, The MAVEN Project has over 100 retired specialty doctors who are matched with clinics based on their expertise.”

The MAVEN Project was founded in San Francisco in 2014 with funding through donations and various community grants. The project currently operates in California, Massachusetts, Florida, New York, Washington, and South Dakota with plans to expand nationally.  By working with primary care providers rather than providing direct-to-patient care, MAVEN volunteers can have a broader reach, unrestricted by state licensure requirements or the patient’s physical location. The goal is to expand the expertise of these primary care providers, keeping services within the patient’s local, culturally competent “medical home”.

Labor of Love

Dr. Green attended Harvard College and Medical School, and co-founded Pacific Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group in San Francisco in 1989. Trained in internal medicine at Stanford, followed by OB/GYN at UCSF, she has dedicated her career to advancing healthcare for women, and has been delivering babies for 38 years. Like her colleagues who volunteer for MAVEN, medicine is for her a calling. “Knowing that each day I have the potential to positively impact someone’s life is a privilege.”

“Even well insured patients in major metropolitan areas have difficult accessing specialist care, and I am asked multiple times a day for a primary care referral”, Green says.

With The MAVEN Project, Dr. Green not only assists retired experts in the field help others, but also makes the world a better place by helping the underprivileged have access to better health care. For more information on The Maven Project, be sure to visit www.mavenproject.org.