The University of Kentucky College of Medicine welcomes a familiar face to its neurosurgery faculty next year. Randaline Barnett, MD, will join the college and UK HealthCare as a pediatric neurosurgeon, returning to her alma mater where she “fell in love” with neuroscience and officially became the first doctor in her family.

“I didn’t think it was possible for someone like me,” said Dr. Barnett, a Breathitt County, Ky., native. “The reason I wanted to go into medicine was because growing up in rural Kentucky, I saw disparities. Knowing that physicians in the community were leaders people look up to, I saw this as a good way for me to give back while also doing what I love.”

Dr. Barnett received her bachelor’s and medical degrees at the University of Kentucky. She completed the UK College of Medicine Rural Physician Leadership Program in 2016, then pursued a neurosurgical residency at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She is currently finishing her pediatric neurosurgery fellowship at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

“I really wanted to train within the joint partnership of Le Bonheur and St. Jude because we have amazing skilled surgeons, my fellowship director and mentor (Paul Klimo, MD) who is one of the best in the country, and you get kids from everywhere in the world who are cared for by our team,” Dr. Barnett said. “I am excited to bring this expertise in pediatric neurosurgery to the state of Kentucky.”

Dr. Barnett will join the UK College of Medicine Department of Neurosurgery in August 2024. As a pediatric neurosurgeon, she will lead operations for brain tumors, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, congenital anomalies, craniosynostosis, spasticity, brain and spine trauma and a wide array of other services for patients up to 21 years of age. She also will collaborate with other specialties including oncology, neurology, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, and maternal-fetal medicine.

In addition, Dr. Barnett understands the importance of helping pave the way for future female physicians in neurosurgery. According to an article published by the National Institutes of Health in 2022, only 19 percent of practitioners in the neurosurgery field are female.

“That’s an unacceptably low number,” said Justin F. Fraser, MD, who is professor and vice chair of neurosurgery and director of cerebrovascular surgery at the UK College of Medicine. “We think it’s important to be a really welcoming department that encourages young trainees of all different backgrounds.”

Dr. Fraser was a mentor for Dr. Barnett during her medical school training. He said she was an outstanding student who was dedicated to becoming a neurosurgeon.

Now that they are colleagues, the two doctors have big plans to expand opportunities for pediatric neurosurgical care.

“There is an incredible need for neurosurgery expertise throughout the Bluegrass,” Dr. Fraser said, who travels to clinics across Kentucky. With the growth of Kentucky Children’s Hospital, he said this is the “ideal moment to bring a pediatric neurosurgeon” to UK.

When she joins UK faculty, Dr. Barnett plans to host outreach clinics so that she can serve people in the community and build strong relationships with referring providers. Her main goal is to serve Kentuckians, just as they served her growing up.

“It’s literally a dream come true to come back home and take care of people who have been instrumental for me making it this far in my life,” she said. “It’s a huge privilege, and I feel so lucky to have this opportunity.”