“...I think there are a lot of ways to help a patient before jumping into surgery.”
Although she had decided to be a physician at a young age, for Dr. Carol Barrette becoming an orthopedic surgeon was a real challenge. “People forget, but it was different back then – being a woman in Orthopedics wasn’t an easy thing to do. In fact, I was the first woman from my medical school to get into an orthopedic residency. I graduated with special honors from The University of Chicago and completed medical school at Rush Medical College. My orthopedic training was done at Yale New Haven Hospital where I was the fifth woman to be admitted into that program,” she explains. “After that, I completed a Foot and Ankle surgery fellowship in Baltimore before coming to Worcester in 1993.”
It was during her orthopedic residency at Yale that Dr. Barrette first became interested in treating foot and ankle problems. “A lot of orthopedic surgeons want to work on knees and shoulders, which is more high profile than doing foot and ankle work. However, I really enjoyed all the different facets of foot and ankle problems and decided to make that area the focus of my career as an orthopedist.”
Dr. Barrette spends a lot of time trying to find non-surgical solutions for her patients’ problems. “Although I am a surgeon, I spend 90% of my time trying to avoid surgery. Foot and ankle surgeries are difficult to recover from and often require a prolonged time out of work for the patient which can be financially problematic. Some patients require immediate surgery such as for unstable fractures but most patients can be successfully treated with a combination of exercise, injection, bracing, footwear changes, and other modalities. If conservative intervention is not working then surgical solutions can be considered. For the most part, I think there are a lot of ways to help a patient before jumping into surgery.”
After joining Fallon Clinic (now Reliant Medical Group) in 1993, Dr. Barrette started the first Diabetic Foot Clinic and began the process of limb salvage with a team approach. Identifying problems early on led to a significant decrease in the amputation rate for the clinic. Dr. Barrette has always enjoyed sharing her surgical knowledge and is a member of the New England Foot and Ankle Club which meets periodically to discuss new techniques and problematic cases. “Sometimes a surgeon will find a way to do something differently that can benefit a patient that is not in the literature,” she explains. “We have orthopedic surgeons from all over New England who come to share their experience and present difficult cases.”
When she is not busy seeing patients, Dr. Barrette enjoys showing her Leonbergers, one of whom who is a grand champion and recently had puppies (the name comes from a town in Germany where they are bred). She also has a Bernese Mountain Dog. Dr. Barrette and her partner have three children, including twins. She and her family like to stay active and take part in hiking, boating and swimming. She is the current president of the Killdeer Island Club which maintains and protects lake access properties on Webster Lake.
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