Webster’s dictionary describes retirement as withdraw, retreat, give up. I have never done that, nor did I want to start that in my 60’s, how about you? When I left my 30 year career as a prison doctor, people would ask me what I would do in ‘retirement.’ Would I travel, pick up golf, catch up on sleep, relax, etc. I wasn’t entirely sure, but when I walked out of the prison that last day I was already thinking about how I could best use what I had learned, and why and how I needed to share it with the outside world.

In 1987 when I started working in the prison, I didn’t realize that the United States was becoming the mass incarcerator of the world, or that it was the only democratic industrialized country in the world that had the death penalty.

After decades I knew the statistics, but numbers tend not to affect people. Stories do. That is why I decided to write my memoir, “30 Years Behind Bars, Trials of a Prison Doctor.” Books don’t sell themselves though, and I had to rewire my brain and change my skill set. I had to shift from being a physician in a closed environment away from the public, to an author/speaker who had to reach the public and even use social media, which I had stayed away from, for security reasons. I not only needed an expansion of my skill set, but the courage to step outside my comfort zone, courage I found in my purpose to educate and enlighten the world.

As a physician, I have studied why people get old, decrepit, and depressed. The major reason is that they don’t have a purpose that refires them and keeps them moving forward. For me, it is holistic prison reform where prevention, healing, and support are all crucial. What refires you?

About Your Columnist

Karen Gedney, MD, is a featured columnist for Women Lead, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence. and is the author of “30 Years Behind Bars, Trials of a Prison Doctor,”  Dr. Gedney is the founder of DRG Consulting, LLC, where she is a strategist in health and well-being, inspiring and teaching organizations how to lead and heal with compassion using programs she developed as a senior physician at the Regional Medical Center for the Nevada Department of Corrections.

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