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TRUSTEE PROFILE: Terence W. Starz, MD

Dr. Terry Starz with plants he's nurtured since his career began

Internist, rheumatologist at Arthritis and Internal Medicine Associates-UPMC

Chairman of the Division of Rheumatology at UPMC-Shadyside Hospital; clinical professor of Medicine and of Occupational Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh's schools of Medicine, and of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Trustee, Jewish Healthcare Foundation, 2018 to present

Trustee, Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative, 2018 to present

Frequent leader of JHF's "Fit with a Physician" walks

Starz is a native of Pittsburgh, raised in Highland Park and Fox Chapel. The son of an obstetrician, he enjoyed and excelled in science, earned a bachelor's degree from Penn State University, an MD from Philadelphia's Jefferson Medical College (now Thomas Jefferson University), and completed his residency at Pittsburgh's Presbyterian Hospital. He found his way to rheumatology, the treatment of disorders such as arthritis that cause chronic, sometimes intermittent pain of the body's joints or connective tissue.

Throughout his career, Starz has been active with medical societies including the Allegheny County Medical Society and the Pennsylvania Rheumatology Society (as well as serving as a past president of both), and with the American College of Rheumatology. He has served on dozens of committees and in support of initiatives at Pitt, UPMC, and regional hospitals, and has received many top awards for his board and community service, including from the national and regional chapters of the Arthritis Foundation. He and his wife of 51 years, Jody Starz, are the parents of Peter, a minister recently relocated to Berlin with his German-born wife; and Michael, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel based in Fort Campbell, Ky., currently deployed in Ukraine. They have four grandchildren.

Why did you choose a career in medicine? Why rheumatology?

There are many elements of it that appeal to me. I like immunology, I like anatomy, I like general medicine, and I like taking care of people over a period of time. Of course, you want an answer to medical conditions quickly, but often you need a tincture of time. To quote one of my mentors, with some diseases you tell time by your watch; with others you tell time by the calendar. Voltaire said the art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.

I ask all of the patients I see, "Who is in charge of your care?" They'll think for a bit, and often say, "You are, Doctor." No. I tell them: "You are in charge. You are the captain. Your significant others are the first mates. We doctors are your navigators."

I do a lot of teaching: in lectures, in classes, in writing, but also with patients. There are certain pieces of information that are necessary for them: thinking about what a joint is, what cartilage is, how those structures work together. We the navigators help them apply this knowledge and explore the technology available to treat the disease: what are the good effects and side effects versus what might happen if we do nothing at all. We are here to engage patients, to answer their questions, to let them know they are not alone. We are not God. We're here to guide them.

What drew you to the Jewish Healthcare Federation?

One tremendous aspect of JHF is that it provides a forum in which this whole world of medicine can be looked at from a patient-center perspective. Everyone brings their expertise, to be able to come up with a composite best solution that we focus on. It's a very synergistic place, where one plus one equals more than two. I met (state Rep.) Ed Gainey on one of our Fit with a Legislator walks, and talked with him about an initiative to make Pennsylvania the healthiest state in the union. I'm heading to Harrisburg next week to continue the conversation and try to line up more supporters.

Another thing that's so wonderful about JHF is there are expectations. You've got to participate. I like getting things done. In leadership, you have to set the goals, pick the people to work on it, and energize the effort. JHF has really been able to do that.

How do you like to spend a free day or weekend?

I love to play golf; I play near Ligonier, where we have a little place… I really enjoy the outdoors. My mother liked flowers and plants, and I find I've taken after her. I have an Angel Wing Begonia that she passed along to me. Someone gave me a "money tree" plant to brighten up my first, tiny office in 1978. It wasn't doing well but I moved the soil around, watered it, babied it for a month or two. With a lot of patience, it began to thrive. There are offshoots that I've given to other people…. I have orchids that have bloomed four or five times. There's a feeling, a real joy you get from plants.

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