One-on-one mentoring partnerships between physician volunteers and safety net clinic providers are one of the many things that make MAVEN Project unique. The Laurie Green, MD Mentor Award is given annually to a volunteer who goes above and beyond in service to his/her mentees. We are honored to present the 2023 Mentor Award to Tom Norris, MD.
Dr. Tom Norris is using his retirement to support frontline health care providers
After a 40-year career in private practice and academics, Tom E. Norris, M.D. might have been ready to retire from full-time work, but he wasn’t ready to put down his stethoscope for good.
A family physician, Dr. Norris started his career as a Navy doctor, after which he opened a full-spectrum rural practice in Montana. His focus included rural, underserved and geriatric patients.
He eventually transitioned to the academic world, spending more than two decades at the University of Washington where he retired as Professor and Chair Emeritus of the Department of Family Medicine. During his time in academics, Dr. Norris was also involved in Continuing Medical Education, frequently leading programs for the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
His hard work was rewarded in varied ways, including the John G. Walsh Award from the AAFP for lifetime leadership accomplishments in family medicine leadership and the Marion Bishop Award from the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine for lifetime leadership and academic accomplishments in family medicine.
Now, as a volunteer at MAVEN Project, Dr. Norris is making a difference for patients all over the country. Every morning, when Dr. Norris logs on to his computer, he’s eager to check on consult requests from frontline clinic providers who need guidance on a patient. And because it’s all digital, he can still participate even when he’s traveling. Over his 40-year career, so many individuals aided him on his journey, and this is how Dr. Norris pays that forward.
There was one person in particular who helped Dr. Norris develop his leadership skills and set him on the path to success. That treasured relationship made him want to do more. As an educator, Dr. Norris loved being able to help students grow their knowledge and skills and he mentored many. And now, he’s also a MAVEN Project mentor. Over the past two years, he’s mentored five physicians because he knows how important it is to provide people with the right coaching as they progress in their careers. Even the most skilled physician may not be ready to take on a leadership role without it.
Lisa Lindsay is one of his mentees. A nurse practitioner at El Rio Health, a large clinic in southern Arizona, Lindsay has been working with Dr. Norris for three years.
“Not only is he a wealth of both practical advice and medical knowledge, but Dr. Norris also really goes above and beyond as a mentor,” she shared. “Before he became my mentor, I was struggling to manage time with patients, and he helped me to shift language to get them on the team with me. Dr. Norris even reached out to my supervisor to recommend me for a leadership training program that he thought would be beneficial. He’s so fantastic and caring. Through his guidance, I feel empowered to tackle any clinical and practice issue.”
Also at El Rio Heath, Chief Wellness Officer and family physician Mark Schildt, M.D., is working with Dr. Norris.
“It’s surprising to have a mentor who has such an exceptionally impressive resumé and who is also as down-to-earth and warm as Dr. Norris,” noted Dr. Schildt. “He pushes me to get out of the day-to-day mindset and look ahead. Having that perspective of a short-, medium- and long-term view is helping me be more intentional about planning for the future. He has been immensely helpful to me.”
He loves developing ongoing relationships and watching mentees grow. He’s so committed to it that he even helps to train and guide other MAVEN Project mentors. Having an outlet for both his time and his depth and breadth of medical knowledge, he’s grateful for the opportunity to maintain a sense of purpose while helping other providers prepare for whatever may come their way.
At Chiricahua Community Health Centers, the largest provider of primary care in Southern Arizona’s Cochise County, Eduardo Marrero Velis, M.D., is the Director of Community Medicine. He’s been a mentee of Dr. Norris for two years.
“I feel so lucky to count on Dr. Norris’ support,” he shared. “He has an astonishing resumé, and yet he mentors me without waiting for payment, fame or recognition. He’s helped me to improve my leadership skills, boost quality improvement efforts and was a valued friend when my father passed away. As a person, a father, a doctor and a medical director I feel compelled to follow his example.”
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows him, but MAVEN Project isn’t Dr. Norris’ only retirement activity. He’s an active volunteer at his local yacht club and woodworking club. A resident of Washington, he enjoys traveling, being on the water, turning wood and spending time with his three children and six grandchildren.
Dr. Norris is also an active member of a Narrative & Humanity Writing Group conceived by MAVEN Project physician volunteers. Here’s a sample of his work.
By Tom E. Norris, MD
Considering things I’m thankful for,
The list is long, the numbers soar.
But in these days – retirement time,
The list is simpler – more sublime.
Retiring doctors face real change.
Busyness to slower – just feels strange.
From life that’s filled with clear-cut purpose.
To leisure days, the shift usurps us.
One purpose-driven thing for me
Is volunteering time – you see.
One place that has become my haven,
Is a group of Docs that we call MAVEN.
It gives a chance to do some good,
For folks beyond our neighborhood.
It gives a way of “giving back”,
So Old Docs don’t get out of whack.
And as we near the next Thanksgiving,
Provides value to the life we’re living.
So on my list – high in the ranks —
For the MAVEN Project, I say “Thanks!”