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Retiring doctor feels fortunate for career

February 14, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK - There's something to be said for having a passion about something and then being able to parlay that into a satisfying career.

As he was pondering his recent retirement from the medical staff at the Tri-State Community Health Center in Hancock, Dr. Donald Straus considers himself just such a fortunate man.

Growing up in New York City, Straus had an uncle in Brooklyn who was a pediatrician. "I remember he always gave Fig Newtons to the kids," Straus said.

There were other family members who were physicians but whatever the trigger, Straus said he knew from an early age he wanted to be a doctor.

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To that end, Straus pursued higher education at Cornell and Columbia universities in New York and then at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Those were followed by a two-year residency at Hopkins and two years in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Eustis, Va.

"I spent another year at Hopkins and decided to stay in the Baltimore-Washington area at a number of pediatric practices.

In 1960, Straus opened his own office in Rockville and practiced there for 10 years. He took on a partner, staying there until 1993.

"I worked there until I was old enough to retire and I closed my office," Straus said.

What to do next was kind of a natural progression. Straus and his family had been spending weekends and vacations in the Berkeley Springs, W.Va., area for years.

"Those weekends and vacations kept growing," he said, prompting them to move there permanently.

But after a while, Straus got bored and he went to work part time with two family practitioners in Berkeley Springs. Both of those doctors later became missionary/physicians in Togo, he said.

During that same period, Straus also served as health officer for Morgan County for seven years until he gave that up in 2007.

Straus came to Tri-State Community Health Center at 130 W. High St. - again on a part-time basis - in 2001.

"Working here has been fascinating," Straus said. "We get such a mix of patients here."

Now 80, Straus and his wife, Selma, met in New York and have been married for 55 years. They had four children, all boys.

The Morgan County home where he and his wife live is a couple of acres and Straus hopes to get in a lot of gardening.

"I think I really am retired now," Straus said.

On his official last day, Jan. 18, patients, friends, community leaders and the center staff came together to give Straus a proper send-off.

The Rev. Anne Weatherholt even used her "Around Hancock" column to laud Straus and thank him "for the cheerful and friendly way" he treated the community and its kids.

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