Who Am I?
I am a wife, mother of two, board-certified family physician, and international board certified lactation consultant. I am originally from Scotland, but moved to the Houston area as a child. I grew up in the Houston suburbs then attended Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine. I did my residency in family medicine at Georgetown University and Providence Hospital in Washington, DC. I worked at an FQHC in South Philadelphia for a couple of years after residency before returning home to Houston where I became faculty of the Family Medicine residency at Baylor. I am now the owner of Vida Family Medicine, a direct primary care practice that provides affordable, accessible, personalized care to individuals and families in the Houston area. Through this practice I also provide lactation consults to new parents struggling with difficulty latching, breast/nipple pain, and low milk supply.
What is My Practice Approach?
I am passionate about women's health but I care for all ages and genders. My mission is to provide access to high quality, compassionate care for those who are often left behind by the healthcare system. I take a holistic approach to each patient's health, listening carefully to their history and concerns so that we can come up with a plan together that will help them reach their health goals. I try to avoid prescribing medications as much as possible and focus on lifestyle and mindset changes to improve health and wellbeing. When medication is necessary, I am thoughtful about choosing medications to limit side effects and financial harm to patients.
I suffered from an eating disorder through college and medical school, and at the time I thought I could never recover. I finally recovered after residency when I learned the Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size approach to health and nutrition, so this is the approach I now use with my patients in my practice. I am also a survivor of intimate partner violence, and I am a strong advocate for change in the healthcare system and legal system to better support victims in recognizing and escaping abuse. I am a regular supporter of AVDA, a local Houston-based nonprofit that provides legal aid and counselling to victims of domestic abuse and violence, as well as programs to help intervene and prevent abuse.
Why Direct Primary Care?
Before starting my practice, I was a burned out primary care physician working in safety-net clinics. I loved my patients but I felt limited in my ability to help them because of the way these clinics operated. Patients were scheduled for very short visits (10-15 minutes), I was frequently double-booked, and there was very little time in the day for me to spend following up with patients about lab results, coordinating their care with specialists, or even taking a little extra time during visits to explain their condition and answer their questions thoroughly. My passion has always been providing compassionate, high-quality care to those left behind by the healthcare system, but I found that working within the healthcare system made it impossible for me to do that. I was barely keeping up by working extra hours at the end of the clinic day and catching up on work at home, but after having my first child this was no longer an option. I had to find a better way- so I decided to open my own practice using the direct primary care model in January, 2020. As my practice has grown, I have helped many other doctors learn more about direct primary care and how to start their own practice. I am the president and co-founder of Direct Care Physicians of Greater Houston, a nonprofit that provides education and resources to patients and physicians who want to learn more about the direct care model.
Why Breastfeeding Medicine?
My experience with breastfeeding my first child was very challenging. He spent a brief time in the NICU after he was born, so our breastfeeding relationship got off on the wrong foot. I had to work hard to recover from that, and it was extremely anxiety-provoking to feel constantly unsure whether I would be able to adequately feed my child. I thought I would have been better prepared for breastfeeding as a highly-trained family physician specialized in women's health, but felt let down by my inexperience with breastfeeding as a physician. That experience prompted me to pursue further education and training and eventually become an IBCLC. I know that many parents struggle to find adequate support from healthcare professionals when they struggle with breastfeeding, and I wanted to create a place where they could feel heard and receive expert advice to support them on their journey. I provide lactation consults in my office as well as in-home in the Houston area, and virtually throughout Texas.
HOW CAN I HELP?
Dr. Barens is super helpful and responsive. We have had trouble with latching and breastfeeding with our first baby, and Dr. Barens helped us in one in-home lactation support session. She also gave me a vision of what breastfeeding and pumping is supposed to look like for the short- and long-term. I would 100% recommend her services!
Feel free to reach out with any questions about working with me and I will get back to you as soon as I can!
5225 Katy Fwy Suite 660, Houston, TX 77007