Working in the health care field tends to run in the Strong family.
At least four members of the family have become physicians. Some of them work together, and at times, they turn to each other for medical care.
Dr. Clay Strong, an orthopedic surgeon with Hancock Orthopedics, grew up in New Castle, where his father was the city’s physician.
“So, that was what I thought being a physician was, to serve the community in a small, intimate environment and to know your patients,” said Clay, who attended the Indiana University School of Medicine at IUPUI. “When I got done (with medical school), that’s what I wanted to do, too. I wanted a more intimate setting where I can live in the community I served.”
Clay isn’t the only family member to work at Hancock Health. He had a chemistry class with his sister-in-law, Dr. Molly Strong, at Butler University before Molly married Clay’s brother, Ross. Molly is now an OB-GYN at Hancock Regional Hospital. Ross is a general surgeon at Witham Health Services in Lebanon.
Molly grew up in Indiana and attended Butler University before relocating to Lexington, Ky., for her residency.
“I always knew I wanted to come back to Indiana to work,” said Molly, whose grandmother on the other side of her family was a nurse at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Lawrence.
Molly grew up in a small-town community similar to Clay’s experience.
“I grew up in Cicero when there was one stop sign,” Molly said. “I always liked the idea of working in a small town and having those connections with patients and getting the chance to know my patients a little more personally.”
Clay and Molly share more than just the same employer. Last fall, Clay and his wife, Abby, went to Hancock Health for their OBGYN care when Abby was pregnant with the couple’s daughter, Hazel. The Strongs chose to have Molly be their OB-GYN.
“It’s stressful to take care of family members, but it’s very rewarding, and I thought it was very nice to be there and have that rapport,” Molly said. “That’s really what brought me to medicine, when you have that rapport with patients. It was even nicer with this last delivery during COVID restrictions. I had not seen their family outside of the clinic in, I don’t know, eight months.”
“We wanted Molly to deliver our children and do all the obstetric care for Abby,” Clay said. “With family, there’s a different level of trust than (with) anyone else in the world. That’s what family is. It’s not to say anybody else couldn’t have done it, too, but it was very comforting for us.”
Clay hasn’t returned the favor by performing any type of orthopedic surgery on Molly, but he has performed a surgery on his mother while his father watched.
Clay agreed that caring for a family member can bring more pressure than treating a regular patient.
“There are levels of stress,” Clay said while laughing. “But, in the end, it was good, I guess.”
Choosing a specialty
Dr. Clay Strong is an orthopedic surgeon at Hancock Health and his sister-in-law, Dr. Molly Strong, is an OB-GYN at Hancock Health. The in-laws have specific reasons for choosing those specialties.
“Orthopedics is a restoration of function-type of specialty, and so a lot of people get drawn into it by sports and athletics, and I had an interest in that as a child,” Clay said. “I sustained a few injuries that required orthopedic care as a young athlete, so I was exposed to it at a young age. I also had an interest in the biomechanics of orthopedics and enjoyed doing it, so that’s what drew me to it.
“It was more of a functional medicine, plus with surgery, you get to directly intervene, which is a pretty satisfying feeling.”
Molly visited South Africa when she was an undergrad to learn more about public health in that nation. The journey contributed to her desire to be an OB-GYN.
“I was just really drawn to maternity clinics there,” she said. “There’s a big need to improve maternal care, but at the same time, it was just a celebration. The whole community celebrated when there was a new baby, so I think that’s when my interest started.”
Between her pursuing her undergrad degree and attending medical school, Molly worked in Washington, D.C., at a maternal care clinic.
“That reinforced to me how much fun it is to have that relationship with the patient and to spend nine months with them as they’re anticipating the new family member coming,” she said. “The day of delivery is a celebration. When a new mom meets her baby, it’s almost like she won the lottery. The excitement in the room is like that, and that part is what brought me to obstetrics.”