A varied and interesting life has led Dr. Debbie Brackett to Lovell, where she will practice what she loves: rural medicine in a small community.
Dr. Brackett joined the staff at North Big Horn Hospital and the NBHH Clinic and started work Jan. 3, moving to Lovell from Big Piney/Marbleton in western Wyoming. She will practice family medicine in Lovell, with a special interest in women’s health and a love for rural medicine.
“Being in rural medicine, a lot of that is being part of the community,” she said. “Otherwise, you don’t understand your patients. I like being in a small town and being part of the community. That’s one of the things that appealed to me about Lovell.”
Dr. Brackett and her husband, Bob, have lived in towns all across the USA, and even in Iceland, first following his military career and now her medical career. A longtime chiropractor, seeking new challenges led her to a new career as a medical doctor.
Born Deborah Barton in Van Nuys, Calif., Debbie moved with her family often as her father followed a number of career paths that took the family to North Carolina, Massachusetts twice, back to California twice and finally to Oregon. Her father worked as a scientist, helping to design the heat shield for the early Mercury capsules, as the science advisor to the governor of California, as a small business owner, as a financial planner and finally as a rancher in Oregon.
After graduating from high school in Dallas, Ore., not to be confused with the better-known The Dalles, Ore., she said, Debbie Barton attended college at Western Oregon State in Monmouth, where she majored in art history, hoping to become a history teacher because her favorite teacher in high school taught history. Working two jobs to pay for college, she eventually quit and “floundered for a couple of years,” she said.
At the age of 22, she decided to attend chiropractic college, finishing her basics at New College of California in San Francisco, then entering the Palmer College of Chiropractic in San Jose. She earned her Doctor of Chiropractic Degree in 1990.
About a year before earning her degree, she met Bob Brackett, who worked as a fraud investigator for the Naval Intelligence Service. The two fell in love and were married three weeks before her graduation.
After a brief stint in Alabama while Bob attended polygraph school, the Bracketts returned to California and Debbie opened her first practice in Walnut Creek. Their first son, Joshua, was born in 1992.
After Joshua was born, Bob was transferred to Washington, D.C., and the family lived in southern Maryland. Debbie worked for doctors in Waldorf and La Plata, and two more sons were born: Caleb in 1993 and Samuel in 1995.
Shortly after Samuel was born, Bob was transferred to Iceland, starting a new and interesting chapter in the family’s life.
“The kids and I landed in a blizzard in Iceland in December of 1995,” she said. “It was a military flight. It was blowing so hard that the Marines took the kids off the flight and I had to use a rope to stay upright while walking to the terminal.”
The Bracketts spent two years in Iceland. Bob worked as a liaison among the NIS, the Icelandic Defense Force and NATO, and the family lived in NATO housing on a military base with neighbors from Denmark, Canada and France.
Debbie was the first chiropractor given permission to practice on a NATO base, but she had to learn Icelandic, working hard to learn the language.
“I can yell at my kids in Icelandic,” she joked.
Given a choice of transferring to Washington or North Korea in 1998, Bob chose to retire, and the Bracketts opened a chiropractic clinic in Charlottesville, Va., Bob running the business side and Debbie the medical side. The practice quickly became the second-busiest practice in Charlottesville as the couple added a rehabilitation center. Debbie also served on the Virginia State Board of Chiropractic, and Bob worked for the American Red Cross. As a first responder, he was at the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks the day after the 9/11 events. But something was gnawing at Debbie.
“I had kind of maxed my career, and I was still young, so I wondered, ‘Is there more?’ Bob said, ‘Why don’t you go to medical school?’,” she said.
After researching the idea, Debbie realized that she could save a year and a half by getting her degree from the University of Health Sciences in Antigua because the university would transfer her basic sciences from chiropractic college. She took two years of online classes from her home in Virginia, then two years of hands-on training in Charlottesville. Because she attended a foreign university, she had to pass an English language test and an advanced U.S. medical licensing exam.
Desiring to get into rural medicine, she entered her residency at the University of Wyoming Family Medicine Residency in Cheyenne.
“The program stresses rural training, and I knew I wanted to practice rural medicine,” she said. “That’s what brought us to Wyoming.”
While in Cheyenne, Bob worked for the State of Wyoming as a draftsman, then became director of the Sex Offender Registry Program through the Division of Criminal Investigation.
After three years in Cheyenne, Dr. Brackett was hired by the Niobrara County Health and Life Center in Lusk, working at the clinic, hospital, emergency room, nursing home and as the health care provider at the Wyoming Women’s Prison.
In 2008 she moved on to the Marbleton/Big Piney Clinic, where she knew the medical director, Dr. Tom Jones, who preceded her as the Chief of Residency at the UW program in Cheyenne. The Bracketts live seven miles north of Marbleton, and the boys have attended Big Piney High School.
Joshua graduated from BPHS in 2010 and is now a sophomore at the University of Wyoming. Caleb is a senior at BPHS, and Samuel is a sophomore. The family will make the move to Lovell in June.
Dr. Brackett said she is making the move to Lovell because she disagreed with the Big Piney/Marbleton Clinic’s policy of running the clinic short-staffed. She also disagreed with certain policies the clinic employed.
“I like it here because you can admit your own patients into the hospital and follow them,” she said. “Better follow-up means better health care. Rural medicine is not just about taking care of patients. It’s about taking care of your neighbors and friends and being a part of their lives in the community.”
The Bracketts plan to become active in the community, and they have a history of activity in Sublette County. Bob started a Boy Scout troop in Big Piney and the boys have volunteered at the library, among other things.
Right now, Bob and Debbie are going back and forth on weekends, and after a family trip to visit friends in Iceland in late May, the family will make the move to Lovell in June.
Along with her love of rural medicine, Dr. Brackett has a strong drive for women’s health, she said.
“Women talk to a woman doctor differently,” she noted.
She also has a strong belief in wellness, noting a recent life emphasis in diet and exercise. She swims three miles a week and does aerobics three days a week.
By David Peck