Take a moment to meet Ruth “Jo” Barta, MD, Gillette Children’s new fellowship-trained and board-certified pediatric craniofacial and plastic surgeon. After spending much of her childhood in Taiwan, Jo, a self-proclaimed “triple Gopher,” returned to Minnesota to complete her undergraduate studies, medical school and residency. She then completed a highly sought-after fellowship at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital. She now works at Gillette in conjunction with HealthPartners, treating both adult and pediatric craniofacial patients. She is one of few fellowship-trained craniofacial surgeons in the Twin Cities.
What prompted you to enter into the craniofacial field, specifically? What inspired you to enter the medical field, more broadly?
From a young age, I wanted to become a doctor. When I was growing up in Taiwan, a close family friend of ours was one of only two female cardiac surgeons in the country. I always looked up to her as a role model, and knew I was going to become a surgeon like her one day.
When I began my medical training I was interested in neurosurgery, but transitioned into plastic surgery after gaining an appreciation for the breadth of the field. Plastic surgeons are sometimes known as the “surgeon’s surgeon,” in that we work with every specialty in the hospital. Craniofacial surgery is significantly life-changing and can greatly impact patients psychosocially. I enjoy the ability to restore both form and function to those we care for.
The thing I love the most about working in pediatrics is that you can change the course of a child’s life before they are even aware of it. The responsibility of accepting a child’s blind trust that you will do your best for them, and providing continuity of that care over the years, is motivating to me.
What drew you to work at Gillette, both in terms of mission and patient population?
In my fifth year of training I worked with Martin Lacey, MD, another Gillette craniofacial surgeon, in a pediatric rotation and absolutely fell in love with it.
Many congenital and craniofacial anomalies require multidisciplinary team collaboration, and that is something I know Gillette champions. Everyone is here pulling together as a team to for the benefit of the patient.
While working at Gillette I enjoy getting to know patients and their families and fostering genuine, sustained connections with them. I always encourage families to find a physician or care provider that they can trust and comfortably communicate with, because that relationship is as important as any other in life. As the second oldest of nine children, I am used to being in a caregiver role and have a deep appreciation for Gillette’s family-centered care model.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I try to go on one medical mission trip a year. In January I went on my second trip with a group to Peru. The Twin Cities medical community is very passionate about giving back to underserved populations, and there are many groups based in Minnesota going on medical missions around the world. What I really appreciate about the team I work with is that we return every single year to the same place, which offers some continuity of care to a patient population who might not have access to any specialized care outside of the mission group.
When I am not at work, I like to engage in just about any fitness endeavor: running, hiking, lifting weights etc. I obstacle race as a hobby and recently got back from a 24-hour race in Iceland. I believe that as a care provider, I cannot stress the importance of health and wellness to others if I do not practice it myself.
I also enjoy spending time with my family. My father is originally from Minnesota so I have a lot of family here and I try to spend time with them whenever I can.