As she celebrates her 80th birthday on August 3rd, Dr. Claudia Strehlke reflects on her life since 2013 when the Dr. Claudia T. Strehlke Medical Award Fund was established by her family and colleagues, as a way to honor her upon her retirement.
There are so many in Northwestern Alberta and British Columbia who have been touched by the compassionate and detailed care they received from Dr. Strehlke in her 42 years of practice. She was the first Internist in Grande Prairie and worked as the only specialist in Internal Medicine for 12 years (Dr. Dalton was the second who arrived in 1985). Dr. Strehlke shares, “This was a lot of responsibility, but I grew into that responsibility. I had lots of support through my classmates and colleagues in Edmonton, having studied medicine at the University of Alberta. I always tried to do as much as I could in G.P. to avoid having my patients and their families travel to Edmonton.”
As a consultant, Dr. Strehlke saw many patients with many different health issues. “I learned how to treat as much as I could – including all types of cancer. The Cross Cancer Institute was looking for someone to start a clinic – the idea was to decentralize the care – and I volunteered to head up the program. I had set up the ICU and been in practice for several years, so this was a new challenge for me. I went to the Cross Cancer Institute for training. I was motivated to develop my capabilities in a new direction. It was a great benefit to the community because we could do the care closer to home. As the physician leading the clinic, I worked hard to create a strong, close-knit team that would look after patients and look after each other. It was a clinic that was very giving, but also took a lot out of us to care for patients, so we made sure to create an environment that was nurturing. I still keep in touch with many of the staff I worked with at the clinic, and there is a deep bond and connection for the work we did together.”
Retiring and leaving G.P. was not easy, shares Dr. Strehlke, as it involved letting go of so much. “Giving up my career, my practice, helping patients, using my skill and talent to be of service to others. Although I recognized that it was time to pass the torch to others, I also knew that my gift was medicine, and I really loved my work.”
Retirement is proving enjoyable and keeping her as busy as ever. “I spent my entire life looking after people, so early retirement has been more about self-care and self-reflection. Once I retired I felt that I needed some time for me to focus on my own wellness and spiritual growth. I spent a lot of years working. I started working at a movie theatre before I was 16, and after that helped my dad with his construction business before I started my medical career. I have always been dedicated, hard-working, and showing up for others. Retirement so far has been showing up for me. This isn’t always easy, as I’m used to being busy and being in service to others. But it has been good for me and for my family.”
Dr. Strehlke initially relocated to the Sunshine Coast in BC near two of her four daughters who live in Vancouver and has recently moved to Edmonton where her third daughter lives. She has done a lot of travelling, including touring Germany, France, New Zealand and Australia (where her eldest daughter lives in Perth). She thoroughly enjoys spending time with family, especially her daughters (Heidi, Christina, Sonya and Monica) and 11 grandkids, and with friends. She has become involved with the church, along with focusing on personal interests including spirituality, reading, health, and watching detective shows!
Dr. Strehlke says she feels very honored to have an award in her name. “My hope is that the next generation of health care workers continues to hold the care of the individual as paramount and sees that there is a role to play in maintaining the human aspect of our work. We need to ensure that systems, science and technology don’t overshadow the relationships between practitioner and patient. Excellent health care requires a human element.”
“ I hope that the award provides an opportunity for students to study without worry about funding their education, and allows them to focus on their learning. I had such a wonderful career in Northern Alberta, and appreciated the community, care and opportunity that Grande Prairie provided to me and my family. It was the best place to raise a family and grow a career.”
The fund provides a student award to a Peace Area resident attending a public post-secondary institution and studying medicine, nursing or another health-related occupation. Priority is given to students studying internal medicine or oncology, and to those who intend to practice in rural Alberta.
In celebration of Dr. Strehlke’s 80th birthday, her family would like to grow the award fund and have offered to match donations made to the fund up to $3,000.00 for the month of August.
You can make a difference in our community – not only for today but forever. When you make a donation to the Dr. Strehlke Medical Award Fund, we invest that gift into a permanent endowment fund and the original gift is never spent. Earnings from your gift is distributed to a student award, as described above. Donations can be made online here – https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/63810 or by calling the Community Foundation at (780) 538-2820.