Richard Barry, M.D., 1945-2008
Richard Barry, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and a pediatric emergency medicine physician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, passed away unexpectedly in his home after going to sleep Saturday night. He was 63.
Barry had been director of emergency care services at Cardinal Glennon for 29 years and co-director of the pediatrics residency program at Saint Louis University for 30 years. He graduated from Saint Louis University School of Medicine in 1971 and worked at the University and at Cardinal Glennon for every subsequent year except three.
"The last day of his life was spent doing what he loved most - taking care of children and teaching others how to," said Faye Doerhoff, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and a colleague for 26 years in Cardinal Glennon's ER.
"He had had a good day in the ER. He was enjoying the people he had worked with for all this time."
Ironically, Barry had decided that April would be his last month doing shifts in the emergency room before switching to treat hospitalized children.
"His last shift was Saturday. He died overnight. This was Dr. Barry's way. He never wanted someone to have to work for him or pick up any slack because of him," said Kathy Lehman, M.D., a second-year pediatric ER fellow who had done all six of her years of pediatric training with Barry.
"Dr. Barry dedicated his life to Cardinal Glennon and Saint Louis University, so it only made sense when I found out that he donated his body to SLU."
Barry called himself "the little people's doctor" and found a reason to smile in his daily interactions with children, Doerhoff said.
"No one could connect with a child like Dr. Barry," she said. "He'd ask a 4-year old, "Are you married?" He was kind of an Art Linkletter with kids saying the darndest things."
Lehman recalled days in the ER when Barry would tell stories about the past.
"He was like a storyteller with all the children sitting around him, mesmerized by what he was saying," she said. "He mostly would tell us about the funny stories but sometimes there were sad things too. As you sat there, without him knowing it, you began to realize what a backbone he was to Cardinal Glennon....how intricately connected he was to the hospital and everything it stands for."
Robert Wilmott, M.D., chair of the department of pediatrics at Saint Louis University and pediatrician-in-chief at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, described Barry as a warm and humble colleague.
"He would never boast or take credit for his achievements," Wilmott said. "He was a warm person, very sociable and very loyal to Saint Louis University and Cardinal Glennon."
Anthony Scalzo, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University and an ER physician at Cardinal Glennon, described Barry as an "understated quiet hero and the best clinician I knew" who encouraged his students to know the name of their young patients before they walked into an exam room.
"He was not only my mentor. He taught people how to take care of kids as though they were his own kids. He was the best teacher I ever had - practical, common sense, caring. He'd get down on his hands and knees to play with a child and gain their confidence," Scalzo said.
"He had a sense of humor and cared deeply about his patients and cared deeply about education."
Barry, who was not married and had no children, volunteered to work every Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so those who had families in town could spend holidays with their loved ones, Doerhoff said.
Until his mother, who was ill, passed away last December, Barry would fly to her New Jersey home once a month for a four-day weekend to spend time with her, added Heidi Sallee, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at SLU, who last May became director of the pediatrics residency program.
"He was a great teacher," Sallee said. "He asked thought-provoking questions. He was very dedicated to teaching and dedicated to the program. He was the kind of person who expected much of himself and of those he taught."
Lehman said that Barry had an amazingly brilliant mind.
"He could recall the smallest detail and come up with the most obscure of diagnoses and be right. He was forever patient and never condescending. When you had a question, he would guide you to the answer and then let you think that you came up with it on your own," Lehman said.
"I firmly believe that there are only a few people on this earth who can be qualified as 'truly great and amazing.' Every now and then, you're fortunate enough to have your life path cross theirs, and then you can experience their presence and try to breathe them in and hope that something about them rubs off on you. Dr. Barry was this person in my life," she continued.
"He was a mentor, a leader, an advocate, a hero, and I can't leave out a prankster. Lord knows, he'd pull a fast one on you if you weren't paying attention. But most of all, he was an amazing friend. To say he will be missed is a gross understatement," Lehman said.
Barry is survived by five brothers, Timothy (Jamie), Dennis (Julie), David, John and Christopher; one sister, Barbara (George) Herbert; six nephews; and one great nephew. He is predeceased by his parents Charles E. and Virginia Barry and nephew, Thomas Barry.
A celebration of his life will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, May 9 in the Grand Ballroom of Busch Student Center, 20 N. Grand Blvd., on Saint Louis University's campus.