When Tracy Salenger Barefield first came to Augusta in 1987, it was to work as a dietitian on staff at Humana (Doctors) Hospital Burn Center. When she returned to the Garden City a few years later, it was as a first-year medical student at the Medical College of Georgia. Toward the end of her formal medical education when it was time to consider her next move, she and her husband, Mickey, chose not to move at all. In 1996, they decided to call Augusta home and she joined the staff of the Center for Primary Care as the first female physician in the practice group.

Dr. Barefield completed her undergraduate work at Florida State University in Tallahassee and graduate work at Florida International University in Miami. After working at the Burn Center for only a brief time, she was offered a position as Chief Clinical Dietitian for Marriott Food Services in Carrollton, Georgia. During her 2 years in Carrollton, one of the physicians she worked with recognized her potential and encouraged her to pursue her interest in medicine. Spurred on by his support, she applied to the Medical College of Georgia, was accepted, and returned to Augusta to receive her medical training and launch a career as a family physician.

At the conclusion of her residency, Dr. Barefield was expecting her first child and trying to decide what career move to make. A medical school acquaintance of hers, Dr. Edwin Scott, mentioned that Dr. Paul Fischer had started a new practice and was recruiting physicians. She was intrigued by the prospect of staying in Augusta. She and Mickey agreed that starting a new job, moving to a new place, and having a baby would be too much for their young family to take on all at once. But she kept thinking, Who would recruit a pregnant woman? As it turns out, Dr. Fischer did not consider her impending motherhood a hindrance. In 1996, she became the first female doctor on the staff of the Center for Primary Care. She is now medical director for the South Augusta office.

Of all the specialties she was exposed to as a resident, she was drawn most to family medicine. I loved all the rotations I did, but in family medicine, I saw the full range of people. There was so much variety always something different, she says. Family medicine was the most challenging.

Dr. Barefield believes her interest and background in womens health is a strength she brings to CPC. Throughout medical school and my residency, I was one of the few who enjoyed obstetrics and gynecology, she says. This allowed her to work with many female patients and, combined with her background in nutrition, may have fostered her passion for womens health issues. Being the only woman on staff at their South Augusta office, she believes, has opened the door to many female patients who may not have wanted to see a male doctor. I am proud to be the first woman in this practice, she says.

One factor in Dr. Barefields decision to live and work here was her husbands ties to the community, but it was work not Mickey that brought her here to begin with. They did not even know each other until she was a second-year medical student, when they met by chance. Tracy and her girlfriends had planned to meet sans men for girls night out at the Sheraton Hotels Saints lounge. Tracy was prompt. Her friends were not. Enter Mickey.

Mickey and Tracy

If its true what people say about opposites attracting, that must have been the force that brought them together. She was a city girl, born in New York and raised in Fort Lauderdale. Having grown up on a farm, he was entrenched in the ways of the rural South. Not only of different realms of experience, they were also of different faiths. Coincidence put them at the same place at the same time, and fate took it from there.

He came over and asked me to dance and we hit it off immediately, she recalls. By the time her friends arrived, she was thanking them for being late. Tracy and Mickey have now been married for 7 years and have two sons, James, 4, and Jacob, 2.

Instead of being an obstacle, Tracy and Mickeys differences have enriched their life together as a couple. Thanks to Mickey, she now can drive a tractor and shoot a gun, two activities they enjoy together when visiting the family farm where Mickey grew up. Weve both broadened each others horizons to different areas, she says. Like Aesops town mouse and country mouse, We are from different backgrounds but we mesh so well together.

Of all the new interests Dr. Barefields husband introduced her to, shooting is probably her favorite. We used to set up targets at the farm and we both enjoy trap and skeet shooting, she says. It allows me to get my aggressions out without hurting anyone. She is quick to point out that inanimate objects are the only targets shes interested in hitting. I dont want to shoot anything living unless its going to try to shoot me first, she says.

Her other interests are more on the domestic side. Dr. Barefield loves to sew and says shes a dynamite cook. Her office, which is sprinkled from top to bottom with family pictures, is testament to her passion for photos and family. She also enjoys scrapbooking, which allows her to organize her familys pictorial history in a fun, creative way.

They are both close to their families. Dr. Barefields parents, Ellen and Arthur Salenger, live in Ocala, Florida, and visit as often as once a month. Her sister, Susie, just moved from Ocala to Augusta so she could be closer to the Barefields. Mickeys mother lives in Millen and his grandmother lives in Waynesboro.

When shes not busy being a physician, Dr. Barefield enjoys spending time with Mickey and their two sons. We have lots of fun together doing things as a family, she says. She gives her husband much of the credit for their balanced family life. When she was pregnant with her second son, she and Mickey made an important decision. In what they jointly considered to be the best interest of the children, Mickey decided to leave his job as a plant equipment operator at Plant Vogtle so he could stay home and care for James and Jacob.

Not only has this move been beneficial for their children, it has also allowed Dr. Barefield to devote the time and energy her job demands. It has enabled me to do what I need to do in my work seeing patients, paperwork, doing rounds, she says. How has their decision affected her husband? Besides the obvious perk of being with his sons, the biggest endorsement came from coworkers and friends. Everyone has a great deal of respect for Mickey in this decision, she says. Instead of giving him a hard time, the guys at work were jealous!

Perhaps Dr. Barefields greatest gift to her family, friends, coworkers and patients is her balanced approach to life. It is a philosophy that extends naturally into everything she does at the Center for Primary Care and brings to her practice of medicine a precious balance of professionalism and compassion

Dr. Barefield can be reached via email at tbfield@cpcfp.com.

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