Starr Strong was born in Brookfield and still lives there today. Married to John Button of Chelsea, the couple has two grown children. In her free time, Starr enjoys gardening, skiing, kayaking, and hiking.
Starr has been a physician assistant for 31 years, including 19 years at the Chelsea Health Center as well as at Gifford’s Randolph and Bethel practices and Vermont Technical College’s student health center.
Her greatest love, professionally, is the Chelsea Health Center and the long-term relationships she has forged with generations of families there. At a rural practice, she says, people matter and she is able to spend time with her patients. “It is a privilege in life to make a place your own, to grow a life that is bigger than just yourself,” she says.
Below is her story as told in her own words, as featured in our 2012 Annual Report.
“When I was young, it took me a long time to sort out what I wanted to do with my life. Through traveling and experiments with lifestyles, I discovered a new profession – physician assistant – that appealed to me. It fit my personality (rebellious) and, I hoped, my potential. In 1979 I told my potential educators that I wanted to be a family practitioner in a rural health center. Three decades later, that vision has evolved into a challenging and fulfilling life.
My family’s ancestral home is a humble hill farm in Brookfield. I’ve known all my life that it is my true home. In 1981 when I was completing physician assistant (PA) school, I met with Phil Levesque, Gifford’s president at the time. He told me that Gifford didn’t have a place for me and he doubted that the Medical Staff would accept a PA in the years to come. I kept knocking on the door, and nearly 20 years ago I got an opportunity to “try it” in Chelsea. I was the first PA at Gifford, the first non-physician provider in Chelsea, and the only woman to practice there.
“The door” in Chelsea was opened to me largely by the gracious support of Dr. Brewster Martin who became my teacher, mentor, advisor, very dear friend, and, eventually, my patient. Brewster was the wisest person I have known and his influence on my life is immeasurable. I promised him that I would practice in Chelsea for 20 years and I am nearly there. During our lunchtime chats we shared the deepest thoughts and concerns in our hearts, and we shared funny stories. It was a privilege to be his friend and I miss him every day.
Family medicine is at least as much about relationships as it is about science. The depth of that trust can be built through years of commitment and listening. I am fascinated by the richness of families and individual’s lives, their dignity and fears, joys and sorrows. I am humbled by the courage I witness, and am grateful for the privilege of such trust.
Just like with Brewster, some of my fondest and most challenging experiences are with those I know best. I especially treasure my relationship with Judy Alexander, a woman who is my patient, friend, and co-worker. She has taught me a lot about humor and the joy of sarcasm, and she strengthens my love of play. Her courage in facing the battle of her life keeps me grounded, humble, and ever so appreciative of the fullness of life. I treasure that we will walk this road together as far as it takes us.
I love this place.”
~ Starr Strong, PA-C
Chelsea Health Center physician assistant