Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

Alan Greene '81 and his wife founded drgreene.com in 1995.

March 10, 2004:

The doctor's online
Pediatrician Alan Greene '81 answers parents' questions

In 1995 Alan Greene '81, a pediatrician in Northern California, became frustrated that he wasn't able to spend more time with his patients and their parents. "I felt I was writing quick prescriptions," Greene says. "As the pace got faster and faster, some of the families I was working with got upset." And parents were hesitant to make appointments to discuss nonurgent issues. "He was often not a part of the family's life at pivotal times," says his wife, Cheryl. "His input was not available during critical development and health decision-making."

Then one of his patient's parents suggested that he create a Web site that addressed parents' nonurgent questions and archive the responses online. Greene took the advice and he and his wife founded drgreene.com.

Greene began telling his patients about the Web site and encouraged them to ask him questions that he could address online. "I would take my experience as a dad and as a pediatrician and look at the questions and answer it in a one- or two-page article," Greene says. Cheryl designed and implemented the site. "She is in many ways the heart and soul of the site," Greene says.

The response to drgreene.com was overwhelming. "The families in the practice loved it! We felt really connected," Greene says.

"His patients felt there was an open door, day and night, to ask the questions that were important to them," Cheryl says. Before long people from all over the world started sending in their questions.

The site was only about a year old when Cheryl was diagnosed with stage three, high-risk breast cancer in March 1996. Doctors gave her less than a year to live. At first, Greene believed they should shut down the Web site so he could spend time with his wife and their newborn son. But Cheryl didn't agree. She "wanted to leave a legacy," he says. They pressed on. "When it appeared that we had lost everything," Greene says, "this was something that came into focus. It was a clarifying moment."

Today, nearly seven years later, she has been given a clean bill of health and drgreene.com is more popular than ever. The site receives nearly 17 million hits per month, roughly double last year's average. More than 300,000 unique visitors, of whom 40 percent are international, log on each month.

The site contains 2,000 in-depth articles written by Greene, a bulletin board where parents can communicate with one another, a multimedia library, and a chat room. "When it became clear that we were getting so many more questions than could be answered [in in-depth articles], we started chats," Greene says. He is now available on the chat forum for one hour each weekday to communicate directly with parents.

Greene helps finance the site with his own resources, ever mindful of his commitment to keeping drgreene.com accessible to everyone. Greene, who is the chief medical officer of A.D.A.M., a company that produces multimedia products for medical professionals, and a clinical faculty member at Stanford University's School of Medicine, is working on a new book, titled From the First Steps to the First Kicks: Nurturing Your Child's Development from Pregnancy Through the First Year of Life.

Greene is hesitant to charge visitors to access to the site, believing it is often those people least able to afford to pay for access — including the site's many visitors from developing nations — who need the information the most. Says Greene, "Our goal is to not put barriers up to anybody."

By Chanakya Sethi '07

A longer version of this story originally appeared in the Daily Princetonian.