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Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.
Charles Barrett, M.D., a native Cincinnatian, was well-known for his achievements in business, medicine and education.
Born in Walnut Hills on March 10 1913, he was the youngest of three sons of the general agent for Railway Express in Cincinnati. As a student at the Summit Country Day School, he began to display the makings of a leader, usually serving as the captain in pick-up athletics.
Barrett received his bachelor’s degree from Xavier University in 1934. In 1939, he graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine and was a resident in the Radiology Department at General Hospital from 1939 to 1942.
Barrett decided to make cancer his cause, and though the choice seems both reasonable and commendable today, in the late 1930s and early ’40s, some colleagues felt he was squandering his time and talent. In 1941, he became a cancer fellow in the UC Department of Surgery, and two years later joined Bethesda Hospital’s radiology staff. After visiting other cities to learn how they approached cancer, Barrett began promoting the idea of a cancer detection center. In talk unusual for the time, he also began questioning the wisdom of smoking and of unlimited use of X-ray machines. Once, he took on a local shoe store that used X-ray machines on children’s feet, challenging the gimmick as potentially dangerous, considering that there still was much to be learned about the effects of radiation. The store got rid of the machine, but some older doctors began to view him as an alarmist and an upstart.
By 1946, his persistence had produced General – later University – Hospital’s first cancer detection center. A decade later, he fathered the city’s first cobalt unit – financed by a fund established in the memory of Sen. Robert Taft, ”Mr. Republican,” after he died of lung cancer in 1953. (Barrett had assisted the senator’s physician.) He also built the radiology departments at Bethesda and Our Lady of Mercy hospitals, where he served as president of the medical staffs in 1965 and 1948, respectively
Barrett joined the Western-Southern Life Insurance Company in 1951 as medical director. In 1954, he became vice-president of the company and was made president and chief executive officer in 1973 and chairman and chief executive officer in 1984.
Barrett was a director of Eagle-Picher Industries, Inc., a trustee of the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts and chairman of the board of the University of Cincinnati. He was a director of Southern Ohio Bank, Cincinnati Bell, Inc. and The Procter & Gamble Company and a past chairman of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the Cincinnati Business Committee.
He was a member of the Ohio Board of Regents and the Radiological Society of North America and has also been president of the American Association for Cancer Education, Bethesda Hospital Medical Staff and Our Lady of Mercy Hospital Medical Staff. Currently, Barrett is a member of the American Roentgen Ray Society, American Friends of Hebrew University, American and Ohio State Medical Associations, Cincinnati Academy of Medicine and the board of Bethesda Hospital and Deaconess Association.
Barrett received a number of awards and honors including Sports Illustrated’s Silver Anniversary All-American Award, National Jewish Hospital Award, Salvation Army William Booth Award, National Conference of Christians and Jews Good Neighbor Award, Xavier University Distinguished Alumni Award, The Christ Hospital Louis Nippert Award and the University of Cincinnati Daniel Drake Award.
In 1988, Barrett realized a 20-year dream of bringing all of University Hospital’s resources for fighting cancer under one roof when a new $12 million center named in his honor opened. The Charles M. Barrett Center for Cancer Research and Treatment, located across the street from University Hospital, consolidated the institution’s treatment, education, diagnostic and screening programs for cancer.
”It has been my life to make sure that the ordinary citizen can be treated by the best doctors,” Barrett said at the opening. ”Today we stand on the beginning of a new day.”
Dr. Barrett died May 13, 1989.
Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization