Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

“His contributions to stroke research changed the management of millions of patients.”

© Irma Coucill and the CMHF
1995 Inductee

Dr. Henry J.M. Barnett

Born: 
February 10, 1922, New Castle, England
Died: 
October 20, 2016
Education: 
MD - The University of Toronto
DR. HENRY BARNETT’S BOUNDLESS CURIOSITY and desire for evidence-based knowledge resulted in an outstanding career in investigative medicine that shifted established paradigms and ultimately progressed medical research and the field of neurology. Considered an icon in neuroscience, Dr. Barnett’s impact on medicine and heart and stroke research is immeasurable. He saved and improved the health of countless stroke patients and contributed immensely to the field of neuroscience at a time when few treatments existed for neurological disorders.

Dr. Barnett was recognized internationally for leading some of the most important clinical trials investigating stroke treatments. He conducted the first randomized clinical trials on a global level and successfully demonstrated that aspirin was effective in preventing stroke. This ground breaking worksignificantly improved the management of heart disease and the treatment of millions of stroke patients worldwide.

WITH A REPUTATION FOR WORLD-CLASS EXCELLENCE IN RESEARCH, Dr. Barnett went on to study the effectiveness of extracranial-intracranial (EC-IC) bypass surgery. The results of a large-scale study demonstrated that the invasive surgical procedure did not actually benefit patients. His findings and recommendations were met with initial backlash from neurosurgeons as it was in direct contradiction to standard practice at the time. However, he would eventually make medical history when these operations were almost completely stopped by the mid-1980s.

DR. BARNETT ALSO BECAME HIGHLY RENOWNED FOR HIS WORK WITH THE NORTH AMERICAN SYMPTOMATIC CAROTID ENDARTERECTOMY TRIAL (NASCET). With support from the National Institutes of Health, he investigated the effectiveness of carotid artery bypass surgery which, at the time, was a very common yet invasive surgical procedure to clear a patient’s clogged carotid artery to reduce the patient’s risk of stroke and possible death. Dr. Barnett demonstrated the procedure was effective in preventing stroke in patients whose carotid artery was more than 70 percent blocked, but otherwise was only moderately effective or completely ineffective in reducing stroke in patients. His findings averted many unnecessary surgical interventions and informed new treatment strategies.

During his outstanding medical career, Dr. Barnett was the world’s leading consultant in stroke care and brought prestige and world-renown to many institutions. Along with Dr. Charles Drake, Dr. Barnett was the founding Chief of the Department of Clinical Neurological Sciences at University Hospital and Western University. The founding President of the John P. Robarts Research Institute in London, Ontario in 1986, Dr. Barnett played a significant role in building an international reputation for the institution, which remains a leader in medical research today.

Dr. Barnett was the author of hundreds of original publications and co-authored the authoritative textbook, Stroke: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis and Management. As a generous philanthropist who supported medical research and education and as an unwavering advocate for evidence-based research, he leaves a lasting and indelible mark on clinical research and on the field of medicine.