Retired doctor jumps back into his scrubs to help COVID-19 patients in California

Dr. Chuck Wright. Courtesy of Dr. Wright.

A week ago, Governor Gavin Newsom asked recently retired physicians and nursing or med students to sign up for the California Health Corps. It’s designed to add 37,000 workers to the state’s health care system.

Long before Newsom issued his call, Dr. Chuck Wright answered it. He’s a retired family physician in San Diego. He came out of retirement last month to help with the COVID-19 response.

“I was in the foreign service for 20 years as a doctor for American embassies,” he says. “I was able to retire at 62, but I thought I was just too young to play golf and hang around at home. I've got this wonderful set of skills as a physician and thought I'd put it to good use.”


Dr. Chuck Wright in protective gear. Courtesy of Dr. Wright.

First he went to Sylmar, California, where he took care of Grand Princess cruise ship passengers. Then he went to a new site in San Mateo County to care for people who tested positive for COVID-19 or were awaiting test results but couldn’t go home.

He’s aware of the risk he’s putting himself in, especially in facilities suffering from a personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage.

“If I get this, I'm going to have a hard time fighting it off because of my age,” he says. “But the desire to help is stronger in me than my fear of getting sick.”

Wright is currently taking a break at home. He’s sleeping in a separate bedroom and keeping his distance from his wife, who has multiple sclerosis. 

He plans to go back out where he’s needed next week.

—Written by Kathryn Barnes, produced by Brian Hardzinski

Credits

Guest:
Chuck Wright - retired family physician who’s helping with COVID-19 response

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Alexandra Sif Tryggvadottir, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Angie Perrin