Barbara Starfield

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 06 July 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4265
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. ns{at}

A leading primary care researcher and advocate

In the women’s locker room at the New Mexico State University swimming pool in Las Cruces last March, a stranger approached fellow swimmer Alexa Davis and said: “Hi, you have a beautiful smile.” The stranger, a slim, vibrant 78 year old woman whom Ms Davis had seen a few times before at the pool, introduced herself as Barbara.

“You always have a frown on your face,” Barbara told Ms Davis. “You should smile more often.” Only later, during a couple of subsequent swimming pool encounters, did Ms Davis learn that the stranger who had uttered those simple words of wisdom was Barbara Starfield, one of the leading primary care researchers in the world, who lived part of each year in Las Cruces.

After learning of Starfield’s death, Ms Davis wrote: “She offered a personal suggestion that only a person of heartfelt kindness and sincerity could do. Almost immediately I felt the warmth of friendship of a woman I wanted to know better. I truly appreciated that helpful comment, and now I try to have a smile on my face.”

Starfield dedicated her life to promoting high quality primary care …

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