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Vital Signs

Clinical Observation

In this section, we highlight the human side of clinical academic medicine, putting a few questions to a physician at DMS-DHMC.

Joan Crane Barthold, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Barthold, a generalist in ob-gyn, joined the faculty in 1989 and was instrumental in developing the obgyn residency at DMS. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 1979 and from DMS in 1985.

How did you become a physician?

I grew up in a small town in central New Hampshire, and my dad was one of the few docs in town, but I never thought I'd be a doctor. My mother was a doctor, too, though she never practiced. I was a ski racer and a biology major in college and spent a lot of time doing research. I really liked that, but at one point I observed that the graduate student in the lab where I worked was slowly selling off all the things that seemed to me to make life fun. When he sold his skis and his car, I got a little worried. I wasn't sure that's what I wanted to do, and I realized that people were important to me. This was fall of my senior year. So I applied to medical school, just in the nick of time—that's how I became a physician. I wonder sometimes if I always knew that's what I was going to do and I was just fooling myself, but I don't think so.

If you weren't a physician, what would you like to be?

A bird, flying. And I continue to struggle with the right balance between family and career. I have a 14-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. It's lots of fun to do things with them, and sometimes I think I'd like to do just that.

What are your favorite nonwork activities?

Mountain biking, hiking, running. Soccer and gardening with my kids; I have a good-sized vegetable garden, and digging around in the dirt is pretty therapeutic. And baking; we bake bread every week, and also pie.

What famous person, living or dead, would you most like to spend a day with?

Albert Schweitzer or my grandmother or even my father. Or [former Dartmouth President] John Kemeny—I knew him a little bit because I was supposed to take a math class with him my


freshman winter at Dartmouth, but I withdrew and went off ski racing. I found him a very impressive individual.

If you could travel anywhere you haven't yet been, where would it be?

A big mountain. I fantasize about climbing Denali or, more realistically, Mount Rainier first.

What's the last book that you read?

The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition. It's pretty amazing, what people can put themselves through and survive. I tend toward escapism, detective or mystery novels, local authors like Archer Mayor.

What's the last movie that you saw?

Touching the Void. It's a mountaineering adventure about two guys climbing a peak in South America and surviving despite unbelievable obstacles. We also watched Shrek the other day. Our family varies from James Bond to Disney to mountaineering movies.

What are the greatest frustration and the greatest joy in your work?

To take good care of people takes time, but that is not something that's built into our clinical schedules and is not something that insurers are willing to pay for. And the greatest joy is the patients. Women travel a fair distance to see me, so I must be doing something good.

What advice would you offer to someone contemplating going into your field?

They should listen to what their heart is telling them. I tend to be optimistic and idealistic!

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