Dr. Judy Stark joined Southdale Ob/Gyn more than 25 years ago as one of its first female physicians. She's proud of the part she's played in helping the clinic grow and change over the years — and equally proud of the ways she hasn't changed. Stark has never been one to settle on easy solutions if they aren't in the best interest of her patients. "When a woman comes to me with a problem, I'm committed to helping her solve it without automatically resorting to something like a hysterectomy," she says. "We're committed to the highest quality of care here, and we always have been."
Dr. Stark was attracted to ob/gyn because of its variety. "When I did my medical-school rotation in ob/gyn, I thought 'This is perfect for me.' It's women's health care; it has surgery, endocrinology, and obstetrics. You can do all these things without having to pick just one as a specialty." Her first love is surgery, though: “You get to use your hands, it’s technical, it’s challenging, and I find it endlessly fascinating.”
She jokes that surgery’s a little like playing the clarinet. Dr. Stark entered college as a clarinet performance major, but found long hours in practice rooms to be "too lonely!” A self-described "people person," Stark loves seeing her patients every day. "I have a pretty open personality," she says. "I think I'm approachable ... and a good listener. I try hard to let my patients know there isn't anything I wouldn't want to hear about, or talk about."
For the past 15 years, she's been a medical-mission volunteer through her church, traveling first to Haiti and, for the past six years, to eastern Congo. There she uses her skills at the HEAL Africa Hospital, where many of the patients have suffered injuries from traumatic childbirths or rape. "I do gynecologic surgery and clinic consultations," she says. "It's a teaching hospital, so we're also training residents and students. It's so important, and I love it."
These days, Dr. Stark travels to Africa or Haiti for two weeks every other year. In her non-working hours, she enjoys downhill skiing, reading ("especially historical fiction"), golf ("I'm not very good"), and traveling with her husband, Randy, a cardiologist at Mercy Hospital. Now that their three children are college-age and older, Dr. Stark plans to return to Africa on a regular basis. "And when I retire, I want to stay for three months at a time. It keeps me energized and excited about what I do."