“I Am Humbled by the Courage I Witness” – Starr Strong, PA-C

Starr Strong, PA-C

Starr Strong, PA-C

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.

Starr Strong, PA-C

Top left: Strong examines a curious Xabian Bring in 2009. Bottom: A 1996 portrait of Strong reviewing a patient chart with a co-worker.

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

Judy Alexander and Starr Strong

Friends and co-workers Judy Alexander and provider Starr Strong share smiles and laughter.

A Message from the Medical Staff President

The following was featured in our 2012 Annual Report.

Marcus Coxon

Marcus Coxon

Our effectiveness as a medical home has grown this year with the expansion of health care teams and our collaboration with the Vermont Blueprint for Health. But at the heart of these teams are Gifford’s long-established primary care practices. In each of our health team locations, we have providers and support staff whose relationships with the community run deep.

Take Starr Strong, for example. For 19 years, Starr has committed herself to the people of Chelsea – first under the mentorship of Dr. Brewster Martin and now as a mentor in her own right.

With humility and compassion, family physician Dr. Ken Borie has cared for the people of Randolph for 32 years. The humanity he brings to medicine is an example for all, including the many medical students who he guides through the family medicine portion of their clinical studies.

And Dr. Lou DiNicola, a local pediatrician for 36 years, has been among the foremost leaders in this state when it comes to children, advocating at every turn for their health, safety, and welfare.

Those of us enjoying long-standing relationships with Gifford and with our central Vermont community consider ourselves fortunate to know and work with these practitioners and their support teams. Such stability, and depth, builds our medical homes into more effective tools for helping our patients.

~ Marcus Coxon
Medical Staff President & family physician