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Community Champion: Dr. Karen Gedney

A Medical Doctor Who Found Her Calling Behind Bars

Dr. Karen Gedney standing in front of prison bars

Dr. Karen Gedney

A medical doctor who found her calling behind bars, Dr. Karen Gedney always aspired to be a healer. She never imagined that she would spend 30 years in a prison in Carson City, Nevada.

After a four-year assignment for the National Health Corps, working with the incarcerated became a lifelong vocation for the internal medicine specialist. “I always wanted to work and help people who were the underdog,” Gedney recalls. Prison “is not oriented for healing or medical care; in fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s oriented to shame and punish and make people miserable.” Conversations and interactions with inmates affirmed her notion that destructive behavior stems from a root problem in need of care. She wanted to discern these causes: “I have a high curiosity gene and a low judgmental gene. Instead of ignoring what they did, I was curious as to why. To me, if you don’t understand why someone has a certain behavior, how as a society can we ever impact a potential change?” Far from enervating her, the work with this difficult population energized her. “A lot of people are lost spiritually because they don’t have a purpose. You really feel fulfilled when you actually can help someone, and then if you see where it makes a significant impact on their life, it changes what you think is …

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