Smithsburg High graduate receives presidential kudos

February 05, 1997


Staff Writer

Watching President Clinton give his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Ted and Louise Zarfos thought they might catch a glimpse of their daughter watching from the gallery.

Dr. Kristen Zarfos - a 1971 Smithsburg High School graduate who's now a surgeon in Middletown, Conn. - told her parents she'd been invited to attend and suggested they watch.

She didn't tell them Clinton was planning to recognize her efforts to guarantee women with mastectomies two-day hospital stays.

"She kept this all very secret," said Louise Zarfos, who said she started suspecting something when Clinton brought up health-care reform.


"When he finally mentioned her name, I thought my husband would jump out of his chair," she said.

"I got 10-feet tall last night," said Ted Zarfos, who said he's very proud of his daughter's fight to change the law.

Kristen Zarfos, 43, has received national press attention, including an appearance on "Good Morning America" in November, for her efforts to get a law requiring HMOs to pay for at least two days of hospitalization after mastectomy surgery.

During his speech, Clinton urged both parties to support the legislation.

He included Zarfos among seven people "whose lives reflect the best that we can become when we are one America."

Zarfos' actions were sparked by outrage at her and other doctors' difficulty in getting post-operative hospital stays approved for their mastectomy patients, her mother said.

The effort is in character for the Chewsville-area native, said her parents, who moved to Frederick County, Md., 10 years ago.

"She's been a leader since she was a little kid," said Louise Zarfos. "She was always a fighter, feisty for the rights," she said.

After graduating as salutatorian of her class at Smithsburg High, Zarfos went on to Hood College in Frederick.

She originally planned to become a biology teacher, but was urged by a professor to consider medical school, her mother said.

After getting a medical degree from the University of Maryland, Zarfos completed a residency in surgery at Yale University, Louise Zarfos said.

Zarfos' parents weren't the only ones surprised to see her honored in the State of the Union address.

Louise Zarfos said they received calls from family members and friends offering congratulations.

The Rev. John Schildt, pastor of Bethel United Methodist Church in Chewsville, was one of them.

"I was halfheartedly watching when I heard the name Zarfos. It caught my attention. The next moment the camera was on her," said Schildt, who said he hasn't had much contact with the family since they moved.

"I was very, very excited about it," he said. "How often does somebody from this area ... get mentioned by the president of the United States."

Schildt said he always thought of Kristen Zarfos as a "can't-miss person," friendly, involved and goal-oriented.

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