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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Dr. William Barrett: Fighting to Win Every Day and Every Tomorrow

by Julie Isphording

William Barrett, M.D., has all the heart you want a leader to have — passionate and kind, fearless and funny, intelligent and courageous, compassionate and honest.  He doesn’t accept limitations in his fight against cancer, and he keeps the main thing his main thing — taking care of each patient that walks through the doors at the Barrett Cancer Center at UC.  

Dr. Bill Barrett’s life story — so far — is full of life and death, happiness and heartache, thousands of patients and plenty of miracles. 

Dr. William Barrett, Director of the UC Cancer Institute, with his colleague Dr. Thomas Herzog, one of the best gynecological surgeons in the nation.
Obviously, there’s never enough time or space to talk about everything.

The Mt. Lookout resident is the Director of the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology, and Medical Director of the Barrett Cancer Center at UC.

Dr. Barrett’s passion for cancer care in this region is awe-inspiring.  “When I think of Bill Barrett these words come to mind: servant leadership, selflessness, altruistic, philanthropic, caring, giving and motivating,” said Tim Schroeder, CEO of CTI Clinical Trial & Consulting Services. “Bill is a gift to our community.”

Dr. Barrett is tireless in his fight against cancer; no request is too small, and every patient counts and matters. 

The UC Barrett Cancer Center Breast Cancer Team celebrating breast cancer accreditation as a Center of Excellence
“His efforts and goals are 100% unselfish and completely oriented to improving the quality of life in Cincinnati,” said Brendan White, Senior Vice President and Co-Chief Investment Officer of Fort Washington Investment Advisors. “Bill’s approach to attaining NCI designation is collaborative and solely focused on making Cincinnati better.”  

Dr. Barrett received his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati. His training included an internship in General Surgery at the University of Cincinnati followed by residency in Radiation Oncology at the University of Cincinnati and fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He has been on the faculty of the University of Cincinnati since 1992 and has experience in treating patients with most types of cancers. 

Dr. Barrett participating in Ride Cincinnati, the largest and most successful biking event in Cincinnati for cancer research  (Photo by
Since being named Director of the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute in 2014, his overwhelming priority has been to reduce the suffering and mortality associated with cancer in the region while encouraging the community to embrace the challenge of making Cincinnati a destination for cancer care.

Most oncologists witness the most painful and intimate moments of life, but at the same time they agree it’s not all doom and gloom. The best part of the job is when cancer treatment works and patients return to good health. And, occasionally, there are miracles.

Dr. Barrett speaking to at the nationally acclaimed UC Cancer Institute Retreat for Research, which has funded a number of high-level cancer research initiatives over the past eight years
“I believe Bill’s pursuit of the NCI designation is founded in his belief that, as a region,  we will be better prepared to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer with the hope of eradicating this scourge over the coming years,” said Schroeder.  “His willingness to educate the students, residents and fellows at UC has provided a legacy and expanded the base of clinicians and researchers to carry on this fight.”   
Dr. Barrett and his wife Jeralyn have three boys - Patrick, Luke, and Joe.

Here are some thoughts from Dr. Barrett …

Looking back on your life so far, is there any advice you would give to young people today?
Make the most of every day, every week and every year of your life.  Try things that scare you.  Be persistent.  Be excellent.  Be your best.  Try out for that team.  Be part of the team. Fight for the team. You’re rarely sorry for the things you tried.  You can accomplish more than you think you can, and the difficulties you face will make you more determined to win at life.

What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is when things go well and the treatment is working. To see a tumor shrink away, and disappear, then meet a patient five years later who is healthy and getting on with their life is a wonderful feeling. We follow people through some of the most painful and intimate moments of their lives. The losses cast a shadow on our days, but the wins give the Barrett Cancer Center team a sense of pride and joy. Oncology is very much a team effort, with everybody working together.

What was the best mistake you ever made?
I signed up to coach youth football — the Cougars — with two other Mt. Lookout fathers, Brendan White and Bill Carroll, thinking I would last for one season.  It was so meaningful that one season turned into many, and I didn’t “retire” from it until just recently.   
I believe that sports can be a great training ground for life — teaching the concepts of hard work, delayed gratification, preparation, teamwork, execution and humbleness. This was my opportunity to inspire these character traits in children, but make it fun.  It was such a respite from my “day job,” yet it made me a better doctor, a better friend and a better leader.  

What was your first job, and what did you learn from it? 
I mowed lawns.  Hundreds of lawns.  I stared at grass 40 hours a week and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make it fun.  I learned very quickly that redundancy was not my calling! I knew I had to find a career that challenged me every day and gave me the opportunity to bring value and hope to the lives of others.  

If you had one hour to spend with any person anywhere, who would it be?
On a personal level, it would be my parents.  My dad died when I was 29 years old (Dr. Charles M. Barrett spent time during his career as both a cancer specialist and CEO of Western & Southern) and my mom who died soon after.  They were both very instrumental in my life and instilled in me the confidence to go after what really mattered with a kind heart and fierce courage.  I would love to catch them up on my life and get their thoughts and wisdom on a few things.  

I’m sure you have a lot of tough days.  What are the toughest?
I try not to take the job home with me, but sometimes it can be hard not to. Especially at times when we have had many deaths.  Talking to patients and their relatives when there is bad news is definitely the worst part of my job. I treat every patient and their family as friends, but it can be really hard to know what to say. Sometimes I just listen.  

The US News and World Report recently ranked the Cancer Program at UC 61st on the national list of "Best Hospitals for Cancer." What has made this program so successful?
We believe that life was not meant to be lived alone and neither is the fight against cancer.   Our priority is to provide each patient and their family with kindness, integrity, brilliance, compassion, excellence and more. Cancer is so deadly that every patient really needs a very large team to fight it.  Over the years, our team has battled a day-in day-out, unstoppable, relentless fight to make certain we do our best. This has taken our team to a new level of care. 

I wish I had more time for …
I would like to spend more time with my wife Jeralyn and my boys.  

Besides the success of the Cancer Program, what other things resonate for you?  
Our community-wide initiative to educate high school students about medicine.  Over the past decade, our high school educational program has covered many topics — Lessons Learned from my Cancer Patients, Careers in Health Care, The Science Behind Cancer, Preventative Care for the High School Student, Do you want to be a Doctor? We have reached over 10,000 high school students.  We also started some groundbreaking research as a result of our yearly, nationally renowned research conference.  

I would most like to learn how to…
Sing!  I love music.

What’s your favorite book(s)?
I read so many books, but to this day, my two favorites are Trinity and Tale of Two Cities. 

Best hidden talent?
I really don’t have any!

What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Every day is challenging to me; and, I think that’s a sign of a well-lived life.  I really want to be in a world without cancer.  It’s hard to watch my patients suffer — and perhaps the hardest is when illness strikes my family.  

What is winning to you?
Most of the time winning is just about doing the ordinary things of everyday life really well.  Today, tomorrow, next week, I’m intent on making a positive impact on everyone I meet. And, there’s one other thing — I  want Cincinnati to the best place to seek cancer care.  

Our series continues to show that there is no one way to live a good life.  There is only your way, and that’s all that matters.  It is a mark of a well-lived life.          Julie

A very healthy and active Barrett family on vacation at Lake Tahoe: Patrick, Bill, Jeralyn, Luke and Joe

Running for Cancer

110th Western & Southern Thanksgiving Day 10k Benefits
Barrett Cancer Center at UC

At the Western & Southern Thanksgiving Day 10k Run and Walk, thousands of walkers, runners and volunteers come together to honor cancer survivors, raise awareness about reducing cancer risk and raise money to bring hope to cancer patients in Cincinnati.  And they are getting healthier too!
This year, both the Barrett Cancer Center and CancerFree Kids will be among the 10 local charities that will directly benefit from the ‘breathtaking’ and heartfelt efforts of thousands of families and friends at the annual holiday tradition.

“This is the legacy of Cincinnati,” says John Barrett, CEO of Western & Southern. “Great people who share their Thanksgiving Day morning with others to help others. It’s a snapshot of an outstanding moment that has a lasting impact on our hearts, our families and our beautiful city.” 
“In the lab, at the bedside, on a starting line and everywhere in between, our community is committed to a cancer-free world,” says William Barrett M.D.  “Running a race is a great way to get the exercise your body needs to reduce your own cancer risk and help others at the same time.”

If you want to be part of a great moment on Thanksgiving Day in Cincinnati, come run and walk with us at the Western & Southern Thanksgiving Day 10k Run/Walk/Kids Run.  For more information visit: 

Should You Seek a Second Opinion When Facing Cancer?

Advice from an Oncologist

Life is so fragile.  Cancer patients are reminded of this every moment.  The disease is one of the most life-changing events for individuals and their families.
But there’s also the knowledge that there are brilliant doctors and nurses and healthcare professionals in our community whose sole mission in life is to care for cancer patients; who help thousands of patients and their families face life’s biggest challenge with courage and grace.  
“The breadth and depth of cancer care, treatment and prevention in our community - right here in Greater Cincinnati - is at its best,” says William Barrett, MD.  “Across all the health systems - from TriHealth to The Christ Hospital to UC Health to St. Elizabeth - no one should have to leave home for a first or second opinion.”
When you’re facing cancer treatment, it’s normal to wonder if another doctor could offer more information or a different treatment option.  
“You might want to find another doctor in the area who can look at your test results, talk with you about your personal situation, and help you feel more confident in your diagnosis and treatment plan,” says Dr. Barrett. “It’s a team approach and it works.”

Why get a second opinion?
You want to be sure you have explored all options.
You have an aggressive or complex cancer that may require different types of therapy and access to clinical trials. 
Your doctor gives you a few different treatment options.
You just want peace of mind that you have the correct diagnosis and that you are making the right treatment choice.
Your doctor is not sure what is wrong with you.
You think another treatment might be available.
Your doctor is not a specialist in your type of cancer
Your doctor tells you there is uncertainty about the type or stage of cancer you have
You’re having trouble understanding and communicating with your doctor, or you want your options explained by someone else.
Your insurance company asks you to get another opinion before you start treatment.

How to talk to your doctor about getting a second opinion
“Some people find it hard to tell their doctors that they’d like a second opinion,” says Dr. Barrett. “Remember it is common for patients to get a second opinion, and doctors are comfortable with the request.”  

“I’m thinking of getting a second opinion. Can you recommend someone?”
“Before we start treatment, I’d like to get a second opinion. Will you help me with that?”
“If you had my type of cancer, who would you see for a second opinion?”
“I think that I’d like to talk with another doctor to be sure I have all my bases covered.”

Riding for Cancer Research

Ride Cincinnati
“An athletic event that is a lot of fun and raises money for a good cause is the perfect way to describe Ride Cincinnati,” says Kathryn Macke, an avid cyclist. “I love it.”

The annual Ride Cincinnati cycling event, not only aims to raise awareness of cancer, but also raises money to fund research and patient care.

“Western & Southern is proud to continue our title sponsorship of Ride Cincinnati,” says John Barrett, president of Western & Southern. “The work being done at the Barrett Center at UC is vital to finding a cure for cancer, and this event gives our community a tremendous opportunity to unite in that effort.”

The event has raised more than $3 million over the last decade to fund 34 grants for breast cancer research and other types of cancer at the University of Cincinnati’s Barrett Cancer Center.

“This is an exciting time in the cancer research community. Thanks to new developments, a single treatment option can apply to a number of different cancers,” says Dr. William Barrett, director of the Barrett Center. “These discoveries wouldn’t be possible without the assistance of long-time partners like Ride Cincinnati that have helped pave the way for advancements that go way beyond breast cancer research.” 

For more information on Ride Cincinnati visit

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