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

Board-Certified Podiatric Physician & Surgeon
Step Ahead Foot & Ankle Clinic, P.C.

Doctor of Podiatric Medicine / Diplomate, American Board of Foot & 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. She suffered from many foot and knee injuries in high school that led her to be fitted with orthotics, and 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 both Foot and Reconconstructive Rearfoot & Ankle Surgery, as well as a Fellow of the American Professional Wound Care Association. She is currently the President of the Montana Podiatric Medical Association.

"My greatest enjoyment in being a Foot & Ankle Specialist is using my biomechanical background to help alleviate people’s foot pain, both surgically and non-surgically. Although I enjoy performing surgery, and take great pride in my surgical experience, skills, and training, there is nothing I find more rewarding than  avoiding surgery with exceptional conservative care (orthotics, footwear) and preventing surgery by addressing any underlying Biomechanical concerns, when possible.”

Dr. Barnes enjoys most outdoor activities including hiking, backpacking, camping mountain & road cycline (cycling to and from work), reading, downhill & cross country skiing (skate skiing), spending time with & skijoring her dogs (siberian huskies Niko, Zoe, & Axel), and being involved with the community. She also enjoys carpentry and home remodeling with her husband, Joe. She particularly enjoys building birdhouses.

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, camping, and spending time with their two Siberian huskies, Niko & Zoe. He also enjoys carpentry and home remodeling, with his wife, playing the guitar, snowmobiling and, most importantly, working on his bicycles.

Kathy Fraser

Check-in Receptionist

Kathy Fraser 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 as 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.


Kristie Keathley, CPMA

Certified Podiatric Medical Assistant

Kristie Keathley Kristie joined the Step Ahead Staff in October, 2016. She enjoys learning and has recently completed training to become a Certified Podiatric Medical Assistant. She hopes to provide the best patient care possible.

Having worked in a variety of aspects of the medical field, Kristie has over 20 years of experience. She finds fulfillment in patient care and enjoys feeling like she has made a difference in a patient’s day. 

Kristie is proud to be a 6th generation Montanan and is thankful to be able to raise her three children in her hometown. Kristie and her family love trekking outside in such a beautiful place like Kalispell.  Kristie adores indulging in classic sitcoms, singing, the outdoors, and spending time with her family. Her personality is as viabrant as her red hair!

Jill Zimmerman, CMA

Certified Medical Assistant

Jill ZimmermanJill has always had a strong passion for helping others. She has been a Certified Medical Assistant since 1994 and can’t imagine doing anything more! Having moved from the Portland/Vancouver Area  in June of 2016, Jill now calls Kalispell home. Although she does miss the rain sometimes, she and her family revel in a newfound love of snow.

Jill enjoys spending time with her husband and their two kids both indoors reading  and outdoors in the numerous recreations Montana has to offer. Although their dog is occationally a troublemaker, Nika is the fifth member of the family!

Both downhill and cross country skiing, hiking, and paddleboarding are among many things Jill enjoys in her free time.  


Jesse Hansen

Medical Assistant

Jesse was born in Great Falls, Montana and grew up on a ranch in Belt, central Montana. Having grown up on a cattle ranch, she has a passion for hard work and waking up early. Jesse studied kinesiology at Montana State University and enjoyed all of the outdoor activities the community offered. From skiing at Bridger to golfing and hiking in Highlight Canyon, Jesse knows the importance of feet when getting outside.

With her love of helping people and interacting with patients, Jesse has jumped in feet first at the office, having recently started in July of 2017.

In her free time, Jesse takes advantage of all the recreation she has grown up with and treasured here in Montana. Skiing, backpacking, paddle boarding, climbing, and horseback riding are among a few of the numerous hobbies Jesse enjoys and can be found doing when away from the clinic.


Contact Us

Office Hours
Monday:8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Tuesday:8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday:8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday:8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday:8:30 AM - 3:00 PM