The brief descriptions below are designed to familiarize you with our staff's training, professional credentials and work experience.

Esther S. Barnes, DPM, FACFAS, FAPWCA

Doctor of Podiatric Medicine / Diplomate, American Board of Podiatric Surgery (Certified in Foot and Ankle Surgery) 


Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania (Susquehanna), Dr. Esther Barnes developed an interest in the foot and the biomechanics of the foot as it relates to the rest of the body when she was a young girl. As a a runner, she was very involved with cross country and track. As a result, she suffered from many foot and knee injuries in high school that led her to be fitted with orthotics. In turn, she became interested in the role appropriate foot biomechanics and alignment has in the prevention and treatment of injuries.

Esther went on to earn a B.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering, with a specialization in Biomechanics, from Northwestern University. She decided she preferred a career more directly involved in patient care over a career in Engineering and went on to earn her Doctorate of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) from Temple University, where she graduated first in her class. Dr. Barnes then attended a prestigious surgical podiatric residency program in Denver, CO (Presbyterian - St. Luke's Medical Center). It was during her residency training that she developed the skills to not only perform traditional forefoot surgical procedures (bunion & hammertoe repairs), but also reconstructive rearfoot and ankle surgery, including ankle arthroscopy. Although Dr. Barnes enjoys surgery and is well-trained in the surgical treatment of foot & ankle ailments, she still prefers a more conservative approach. She enjoys combining her Biomechanical background and her passion for Biomechanics with her recent surgical training to offer a multi-faceted approach to the treatment and prevention of foot and ankle pain. Dr. Barnes is a Diplomat of the American Board of Podiatric Surgery, Certified in Foot and Ankle Surgery, as well as a Fellow of the American Professional Wound Care Association.

Dr. Barnes enjoys most outdoor activities including hiking, road & mountain biking, spending time with her dogs (siberian huskies Niko & Zoe), downhill and cross country skiing, snow-shoeing, and camping. She also enjoys carpentry and home remodeling with her husband, Joe.

Feel free to review Dr. Barnes’s Curriculum Vitae for a more detailed description of her experience & training.

Joseph Brega

Pedorthist / Shoe-fitting & Gait Analysis Specialist / Practice Manager

Born and raised in a small ski town in Victoria, Australia, Joe feels at home in northwest Montana. He enjoys helping his wife (Dr. Barnes) in her endeavors and has developed a skill and passion for foot care that nicely compliments that of Dr. Barnes. Having worked with his hands in some form or fashion his entire life (bicycle mechanic / telephone technician), he finds enjoyment in manufacturing foot orthotics and modifying shoes. Joe is the office "jack of all trades." He successfully combines his athletic talent and passion with the skills he’s developed in his Pedorthics training (Foot Solutions, Atlanta GA) in his role as a Shoe-fitting & Gait Analysis Specialist. Joe ensures that Dr. Barnes's patients' feet are matched to footwear designed to maximize their foot function and comfort.

Joe has been an instrumental part of the business since it opened it's doors in January, 2012. From modifying orthotics, to fitting people with shoes, to running telephone wires, and now more recently from billing and collections, to contract negotiations with insurances and all duties managerial, it has amazed us all how much Joe has learned and took on since 2012.  His accent and his witty sense of humor are both characteristics that make many people routine customers, but it is genuine sense of caring and drive to help people that makes them feel most welcome.

Like his wife, Joe enjoys most outdoor activities including hiking, road & mountain biking, downhill & cross country skiing, snow-shoeing, camping, and spending time with their two Siberian huskies, Niko & Zoe. He also enjoys carpentry and home remodeling as well as playing the guitar with his church's worship team.

Valissa Crail, CMA

Certified Medical Assistant

Valissa, a native of the Flathead Valley, returned from Arizona, where she completed her Medical Assistant training and certification, to join the Step Ahead team in the summer of 2013.

Valissa's steadfastness, kindness, reliability, organization, good spirit, initiative and willingness to try new things, are instrumental in the functioning of the office, particularly the back office and the assistance of the doctors.  We are always truley amazed by how much is accomplished by Valissa in any given day, and we are inspired by her diligence through adversity, her caring, and her willingness to put others before herself.  She is an invaluable part of the Step Ahead team.

When not at work, Valissa enjoys spending time with her son and husband.

Kathy Fraser

Check-in Receptionist

Kathy was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio where she received most of her training but continued her training in Phoenix and Detroit. She then moved to the Flathead Valley in 1992 where she worked at the KRMC Emergency Department, Polson Ambulance and Big Mountain Ambulance well as volunteering for Lakeside QRU and Somers Fire Dept. She joined our team in the fall of 2015.

Kathy is  the perferct middle child of 15, seven brothers and seven sisters. After losing her mother to cancer she became involved in the medical field as a way of paying it forward to all of those that helped her family out through that difficult time.

When not at work she enjoys kayaking and spending time enjoying the great outdoors. Kathy loves to travel and go on adventures. She is married to Scott and they have 4 children, 2 step children and 10 delightful grandchildren.

Martha Roberto

Check-out Receptionist / Patient Accounts Representative

Photo to come.

Martha, a native of North Carolina, relocated to Kalispell "on a whim." She and her husband both needed a change of scenery, so they packed up their pets and headed out west for a new adventure. Kalispell is the perfect small, outdoorsy town for her and her husband, who both enjoy hiking, backpacking and swimming.

Martha received her education at Berea College in KY, where she studied english and worked at a pottery studio. When not at work, Martha enjoys creating art, spending time outside, cooking, gardening and cats.

Bridget Thibert, CMA

Certified Medical Assistant

Biography & Photo to come.

Jill Zimmerman, CMA

Certified Medical Assistant

Biography & Photo to come.