Photo by Jeffrey S. Hall Photography
“We have a saying around here: Leadership is a team sport,” says Dr. John Barnard.
When it comes to leadership, Barnard is certainly a team player.
He has dedicated his life to children’s health care and research. Today, he serves as a leader in the medical field as president of the Research Institute, chief of the department of pediatrics and the Ann I. Wolfe Endowed Chair at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in addition to his roles as professor and chair of the department of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
During Barnard’s time as president, the Research Institute has grown significantly, adding research facilities and recruiting scientists. He oversaw the addition of facilities for gene therapy trials and mathematical medicine, both rare among pediatric institutes. Nationwide Children’s is currently the sixth-ranked National Institute of Health-funded, freestanding pediatric institute in the U.S.
Even with his many titles and responsibilities, Barnard is quick to credit the rest of the team at Nationwide Children’s as a collaborative part of success.
“We have a lot of terrific colleagues, and we interact on a day-to-day basis,” he says. “You never feel like you’re alone.”
Ideally, his jobs overlap. Barnard says his multiple roles are strategically planned in order to allow better and more frequent interactions between clinical practice and research.
“There’s an opportunity to combine those all in creative ways that really didn’t exist five or 10 years ago,” he says. “There’s so much we still don’t know about disease – in children in particular – and so discovery is an important part of what we do every day.”
Growing up as one of six children on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Barnard says he always felt a love for children. His time in college spurred an interest in sciences such as biology and chemistry. A career in child health care allowed him to combine his passion for science and care for the well-being of children.
Barnard worked his way north from there, attending the University of South Alabama (he remains a Crimson Tide fan, one of about three in New Albany by his estimate), followed by the University of Mississippi and Vanderbilt University before settling at Nationwide Children’s.
Photo by Jeffrey S. Hall Photography
As a medical student at Mississippi, Barnard says he gained a firm understanding of clinical practice. He credits his internship, residency and fellowship at Vanderbilt University for growing his understanding and appreciation of the research and academic side of medicine.
These firm roots in both clinical and research activities supplied him with the diverse knowledge and experience that prepared him for his positions today.
Barnard emphasizes the importance of integrating the two fields to further our understanding of medicine and health care. He sees each patient as an opportunity to learn and discover.
“If you take care of patients, then you quickly learn that there are gaps and holes and voids in our knowledge base, and that’s frustrating,” he says. “You want to bring the best that science and technology has to bear on the health of patients and, when it’s not there, it causes you to want to fill the gap and discover new things to help take care of patients better.”
Barnard says teaching provides a similarly important role to scientific discovery in the medical field. He and his colleagues in the pediatric department all serve as child health professors at OSU’s College of Medicine.
“We take it very seriously,” he says. “We’re training the next generation of physicians, we’re training the next generation of scientists, and that’s a big priority for us.”
Columbus has proven to be an appropriate location for the success and growth of Nationwide Children’s, but Barnard has found it a fitting home for he and his family as well.
When Barnard began working at Nationwide Children’s in 2000, New Albany’s homey features attracted him and his family.
“Suburban lifestyle has always worked for me,” he says. “The homes and the white fences and the walking paths and all the rest of it is just something that fits my personality really well.”
New Albany has also provided a great location for Barnard’s road cycling hobby, beginning with his experience cycling 100 miles at the first Pelotonia in 2008.
“I really wasn’t a biker before that, and from the very first year all the way up to present, it’s been a very important part of my life,” he says. “(Pelotonia) revolutionized my way of thinking about exercise and a healthy lifestyle.”
Barnard has made an effort to contribute back to the city of Columbus as well.
Through a series of op-eds, Barnard has aimed to better inform readers of scientific research.
“Our public needs to understand science better,” he says. “I think generally, as scientists, we’ve not done a really good job of being able to communicate our work to the public.”
At this point, don’t expect Barnard to add any new titles to the end of his name. After taking on the roles of chief of the department of pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s and chair of the department of pediatrics at OSU in 2015, he says he’s hoping to continue growing his impact within those positions.
“This is it; my career is defined for me,” he says. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity I’m privileged to be able to take on.”
What’s your favorite way to stay active?
Road biking with my friends.
What’s your favorite healthy food?
My wife’s oven baked chicken — it’s delicious and it’s healthful. It’s low-fat and she’s perfected it.
What do you like to do to relax?
Photography is a hobby of mine, as are gardening and road biking. If my neighbors read this, they’re going to wince when they see “gardening.” They’re going to say, “Where does he garden?” But I really love it.
Are there any foods you try to avoid?
I don’t eat beef and I don’t eat pork. That’s a relatively recent life decision – about four years ago.
Do you have any healthful recipes passed down in your family?
Those aren’t healthful recipes. I have a southern biscuit recipe that is utterly outstanding. My idea of a healthy diet is an appropriately proportioned, well-balanced diet that might include its proper representation from proteins, carbohydrates and fats. So I don’t mind butter on a southern biscuit or butter on a loaf of bread or something like that, but for me, it’s all about portion control.
Cameron Carr is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.