#RespectYourElders: Chicago Methodist Senior Services frequently highlights older adults who changed the world in one way or another. We write about actors, musicians, activists and more. With the state of the world, we decided this edition would focus on the retired health care workers who are returning to the field to help those affected by COVID-19.

Dr. Judy Salerno, 68, retired five years ago. Her specialty is in internal and geriatric medicine. Salerno previously worked at clinics in Washington, D.C., and treated patients during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Salerno is taking three 12-hour shifts a week to help COVID-19 patients in New York.

“When there are more than 20,000 infected people in my city, there is no question that I need to help — I didn’t hesitate,” Salerno said in an interview with the New York Post.

Dr. Mario Cavazza, 67, retired in January. He spent the last few months enjoying retirement in a countryside home in northern Italy. Cavazza was tending to his vegetable garden when he received the call from his former boss that he was being called back to work.

Cavazza, who spent 35 years in emergency rooms, underwent heart surgery in October. Now, he is helping coordinate between hospitals in the area and lives in isolation. While his wife and youngest daughter stay at the countryside home, the formerly retired doctor is working in Bologna, an Italian city hit hard by COVID-19.

Dr. Jane Bedell, 63, spent only a month enjoying retirement from the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, where she worked as assistant commissioner for the Bronx Bureau of Neighborhood Health. She helped with health emergencies such as Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Sandy and the Ebola outbreak. Bedell also spent time as a primary care doctor in New York.

Like Judy Salerno, Bedell heard New York  Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cry for help from retired health care workers. She put her retirement plans on hold and signed up to help. Bedell isn’t sure how she’ll be asked to help in New York but is prepared to use her skills as a former doctor or assistant city commissioner.

Dr. Karen Gedney, 63, retired four years ago and spends her time in Carson City, Nevada. She practiced internal medicine as a prison physician and continued her medical education after retiring. Currently, Carson City is not in need of doctors, but Gendey hopes to support the prison population or community hospitals if need increases.

“Even though I have my retirement savings, my assets, and I lived frugally all my life, I always felt, ‘What if I am needed?’ I need to keep everything up-to-date,” Gedney said in an interview with Marketwatch. “People when they’re older — [this is] not a time to kick back. This is when you up the ante with purpose.”

Salerno, Cavazza, Bedell and Gendey embody the selflessness that is so desperately needed during this pandemic. CMSS thanks them, everyone following their example, and every healthcare worker for their contributions to society and their dedication to making the world a better place.

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