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Harvard-educated Physician Makes Way in Wellness World

Cathy Christensen September 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
Marguerite Barnett, MD, photo

If you go with the flow, sometimes things will turn out better than you could have imagined,” says Marguerite Barnett, MD, founder and owner of Mandala Med-Spa and Yoga Shala in Sarasota, Florida. This laid-back philosophy would be easy to dismiss if you didn’t know Barnett has a history of hard work and success under her belt.

As both a Harvard-educated general surgeon and cosmetic surgeon, as well as an 11-year Army veteran, Barnett’s accomplishments are widespread, but that doesn’t stop her from having a peaceful outlook on the world and her role in it. “We are responsible for the world we have and if you coast along and don’t try to improve it, you’re part of the problem,” she says, and Barnett incorporates this ethical mentality into everything she touches.

Having signed on for a stint in the Army to pay for her Harvard education, Barnett began her medical career as a general surgeon. “I came from a family of doctors, and I love everything about medicine. I went into general surgery because I could do the most stuff,” she says. During her time in the military, she was sent to several out-of-the-way countries, so she decided focusing on a subspecialty might allow her to stay closer to more populated regions, which was what she preferred. “I chose plastic surgery because of the wide variety of procedures I could do: cancer reconstruction, cosmetic surgery and correcting birth defects. Once I finished my schooling, the Army immediately sent me to Honduras, so I got out of the military,” laughs Barnett.

After leaving the Army in 1991, she settled in Venice, Florida, focusing on reconstructions for the area’s older population. However, due to declining Medicare reimbursements, Barnett had to consider a different method of generating revenue and began focusing on aesthetic cosmetic surgery. She moved her practice to the larger city of Sarasota, Florida, and in 2003, opened Mandala Med-Spa and Yoga Shala after seeing a connection between her clients’ wellness and how long cosmetic surgery results lasted. “I realized that if my clients are smoking, stressed and not eating well, they are not going to have long-lasting results,” explains Barnett. “I envisioned a spa that included acupuncture, hypnosis, yoga, massage and nutritional counseling.” That vision became a reality, and Barnett now employs a variety of specialists, including an acupuncturist and a doctor of Chinese medicine, most of whom have offices in the building that houses the spa.

In the current economic climate, Barnett has put future expansion plans on hold, hoping only to weather the financial crisis without having to lay off any staff members. This focus on her team isn’t unusual for Barnett, who provides health insurance and pensions to her employees because she wants to promote the idea that Americans should live in a sustainable way, which includes allowing for the ability to earn a living that will cover basic needs.

Taking care of others is something innate in Barnett, and she credits this quality to her parents, especially her father, who was a minister. “I have to help people. Maybe it’s a genetic thing,” she says.

In the future, Barnett hopes to help others learn from the lessons she’s experienced by teaching. And not surprisingly, some of her major lessons can be traced back to her military experience. “It is important to set your sights on a mission. In the military, you work with people from all walks of life, but you put aside any petty differences to achieve a mission,” she says, and also notes another important lesson: “I learned the strength that diversity can bring. There are many different ways of approaching a problem, and I have structured my spa to reflect both Eastern and Western rituals for the strength in these differences.”

Above all, Barnett wants to do her job with integrity and asks her staff members to do the same. She says,“I want to have integrity. I want to give them something of value. I want people to be coming to me 20 years from now.”

The whole body approach she employs, along with her aligned moral compass, promises her clients will do just that.

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