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Retired doc returns to Ridgewood

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At age 68, most doctors would start referring their patients to younger colleagues, closing their offices and spending more time out on the golf course.

Not Bernard Kazdan.

After five years treating patients on cruise ships and one year of official retirement, the physician returned to family practice last month in Ridgewood, the neighborhood where he spent 30 years diagnosing and treating patients.

"I did miss it," said Kazdan. "I thought, you look forward to retiring and so forth. But I didn't miss the paperwork. I missed the people."

Kazdan now works four days a week at Ridgewood Medical Care, 57-38 Myrtle Ave., staying with his daughter in East Rockaway, L.I., during the week and returning to his wife outside Philadelphia on weekends.

He first arrived in Ridgewood in 1966, fresh out of medical school, after an older doctor invited him to join his practice. He spent most of the next 30 years at one of several Myrtle Avenue offices, living in an apartment above one of them.

Kazdan also dabbled in television, reviewing scripts for medical inaccuracies for daytime soaps, including "Guiding Light." He appeared on an episode of the CBS series "Kate & Allie" as an anesthesiologist, flubbing a three-word line, "We're all set."

"I missed the cue," Kazdan recalled.

Kazdan sold his practice in 1997, returning to medicine as a physician on cruise ships after a year of retirement. But he found the experience of treating bouts of seasickness and scraped knees less satisfying than that of providing care over long periods to families he could come to know well.

"I really didn't find it that rewarding," he said. "It's like working in an emergency room. You see them once, and then they're gone and you don't see them again."

So Kazdan returned to land and began to make subtle inquiries about what might be available. In short order, two Ridgewood doctors, Glenn Muraca and Giovanni Marciano, called him and said they could use another doctor at Ridgewood Medical Care, a family clinic.

Marciano said he was elated that Kazdan was back in the neighborhood.

"I thought it was great for the community," he said. "There is a tremendous need for primary care physicians in that area."

He described Kazdan as the quintessential family practice physician - communicative, respectful and even willing to do house calls.

Kazdan, who confirmed that he visits patients in their homes, has now been back to work for four weeks and seems certain that his decision to return was the right one.

His wife Annette agreed, although she confessed that she missed him now that he was gone from the house more often.

"I was really happy because I had a feeling that this was what he really needed to do," she said. "That's who he is. He's the doctor. It's really gratifying to see him happy."

One thing Kazdan is not happy about, however, are HMOs. Practicing medicine in the '60s and '70s, he never had to deal with them, and in recent years - both before his retirement and after his return - he has chafed at the idea that he needs the go-ahead from someone else in order to admit a patient to a hospital or order a diagnostic test.

But the basics, Kazdan said, are still the same.

"I truly think patients, when they come in, they want answers they can understand in lay terms," he said. "People want to know there's someone they can depend on."

Ridgewood itself has also changed. When Kazdan began in 1966, the area was almost entirely Italian American. Today, most of his patients are Hispanic or Eastern European. The office maintains a Spanish-speaking secretary, and Kazdan said it was not unusual for a Polish-speaking patient to arrive with a friend or relative to translate.

But as with medicine, Kazdan said, so it was with Ridgewood. Superficial changes abounded, but the essential character remained the same.

"I've not seen one addict, not one alcoholic," he said. "They're really hardworking middle class people."

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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