ENCINITAS — When Dr. Carolene Madden, M.D. disobeyed her parents, it wasn’t typical youthful rebellion.
After leaving high school at 16, she went on to study premed and French in college. Instead of following in the family business and becoming a physician after graduation, she announced she was going to be an attorney.
Today, she is the lead physician at the Encinitas Health Center operated by the nonprofit North County Health Services.
Carolene Madden’s father was a prominent orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles, her mother a chemist with the FDA before giving birth to five daughters. Her uncles, cousins and a sister were also physicians.
“We were told, ‘You will go to medical school and be a doctor,’” she said. “I thought that I had to make my own decision. It was rebellion in that time of my life.”
Carolene Madden graduated from Loyola Law School in 1989 and married classmate Kevin Madden two years later. She practiced medical product litigation, traveling across the country while raising two young children. Her husband, also a pre-med student in undergraduate school, practiced general civil litigation and defense.
After several years Carolene Madden grew tired of the traveling and in 1996 announced that she wanted to go to medical school.
“I loved medicine,” she said. “I’m a rescuer — I like to help people. My husband is very supportive and said, ‘Honey, I’ll go with you.’”
Two weeks after welcoming their third child in Guadalajara, the couple began medical school at the University Autonoma De Guadalajara.
“Tuition was less expensive so we bought a home at a reasonable cost and had a live-in nanny who was a R.N.,” she said. “We had a very nice life down there.”
The only problem was that Carolene Madden didn’t know Spanish.
“The first two years are taught in English,” she said. “But as soon as you start you work in a clinic interacting with patients. You just muddle along at first.”
The Maddens spent the fifth and final year of study at the New York Medical College north of New York City in Westchester County.
“We were there in 2001 and were part of hospital staffing waiting for survivors of Twin Towers to arrive, but no one came,” she said. “It was very sad. Everyone died.”
The Maddens did their residency in rural family medicine through the University of New Mexico in Las Cruces beginning in 2002.
In 2005, the family relocated to San Diego to be closer to relatives. Carolene Madden took over an existing family practice in Oceanside. She also practiced urgent care medicine at the Centre For Health Care in Poway where Kevin Madden still works today.
In their spare time the Maddens took their children scuba diving and traveling throughout the world, something Carolene Madden experienced herself being raised by a Chinese (immigrant) father and a Swedish-American mother. She also enjoys bringing other cultures into the kitchen, cooking exotic cuisine, especially Indian food.
Last summer Carolene Madden was hired as the lead physician at the Encinitas Health Center.
“I have always had an interest in community health care,” she said. “It makes me feel like I am contributing to society.”
She added, “The staff is awesome and could probably be making more money in private practice but they feel strong about serving the community.”
Many patients show their appreciation by bringing gifts to Dr. Madden from homemade baklava to soup.
“It’s almost like they want to take care of me, too,” she said.
She encourages anyone with a health concern to visit the clinic. Insured and uninsured patients are welcomed.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” she said. “For those who are willing to come in to see a physician and get a basic blood test, you can help us avert a major problem such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol — or a heart attack or stroke later in life.”
For more information or to make an appointment at the Encinitas Health Center, call (760) 753-7842 or visit nchs-health.org.