Experts in the Field: A Different Kind of Retirement
It’s always the right time to volunteer.
But time, work or school commitments, young children, finances, and any number of other obstacles can make it impossible for many willing volunteers to bring their skills, compassion, and knowledge to the most vulnerable. We’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and during a recent conversation with one of our newest volunteers, Dr. Sclafani, we think there’s a group of very capable and experienced people that are the perfect combination of capable, willing, and able. The soon-to-be or currently retired, looking for a less traditional retirement!
Dr. Joseph Sclafani is an OB/GYN from Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine in 1977 and has practiced in the United States for 32 years. He then spent four years in Malawi where he served as the Director of Global Women’s Health for Baylor College of Medicine. It was this experience that planted a seed that would eventually lead him to CMMB. Dr. Sclafani recently officially “retired”, but has no intention of stopping. Instead, he plans to use his retirement by combining his clinical experience with a personal call to action to care for those most in need. Here he makes a powerful appeal to those close to or in retirement who are looking for a way to spend that ‘extra time.’
Retirement is something people often talk about with great anticipation and great plans. But in reality, for many, it can feel a little daunting after years of 40+ hour work weeks. What will you do with all that extra time? To answer that question, start with the recognition that none of us could have achieved our success in life without abundant blessings and gifts.
These gifts often came in the form of mentors, role models, and benefactors, who supported us and gave of themselves in our darkest hours. There can be no better way to express gratitude for their efforts than by repurposing our own skills and talents and paying it forward to help others.
At the age of 62, I moved to Malawi, a small country in sub-Saharan Africa, as part of an international consortium of obstetricians and educators. I joined a team of dedicated, like-minded individuals to help the Malawi government establish its first OB/GYN residency training program. In 2014, there were 12 OB/GYN specialists for a population of 14 million people.
When I returned to the United States four years later, my former Malawian residents were filling my shoes as new faculty members. The number of Malawian obstetricians in the country had more than doubled. These young doctors are now paying it forward themselves, teaching others, who will be saving the lives of mothers and newborns for years after my departure.
I can tell many stories about individuals who used their skills creatively in the later years of their careers to make a difference in the lives of others. A retired lawyer who dedicated a year of his life teaching forestry management in an area of the country undergoing devastating deforestation. A Jesuit priest in his 70s who was a gifted surgeon yet found the time to visit the sick in a Malawi prison. A woman in her 60s leading a team of Malawians who are repairing wells across the country. They are examples of everyday people who share the same goal: to make a difference in the lives of God’s most vulnerable individuals.
Those who hear the call will receive abundant gifts in return. My stethoscope, hands, and heart are once again my best friends at the bedside and in the operating room, reducing the complexities of advanced technology. I have developed new and enduring friendships, a new sense of a global community, and an abundance of gratitude for the opportunity to give back to those most in need.