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Lewis Barness, 92, put USF’s pediatrics department on the map

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Published:   |   Updated: November 18, 2013 at 08:50 PM

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TAMPA — Lewis Barness, the first chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine and considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of modern pediatrics, died Monday.

He was 92 and had conducted research, taught students and treated patients in Tampa for more than four decades.

In 1972, Barness was named chairman of the newly established USF Department of Pediatrics. He focused on recruiting top-tier faculty, building a curriculum and bringing in medical graduate students, nudging them toward careers in pediatrics.

He also conducted valuable research into the field of infant nutrition and metabolism and was recognized as a pioneer in the field, winning numerous medical awards and recognition.

“He’s been my mentor for 33 years, ever since I came to USF, and, yeah, he was a remarkable person,” said Jane Carver, a professor of pediatrics at USF, “and he remains one of the most highly decorated pediatricians in the country.”

Barness chose Tampa in 1972 because of the once-in-a-lifetime chance to build a medical school from the ground up, she said.

“It was an amazing opportunity, she said. “I think Dr. Barness did an awful lot to boost the reputation and standing of USF. Having someone like him here, so highly recognized, did a lot for USF’s stature.”

Barness began his medical career in Boston. After completing medical school at Harvard University in 1944, he did his residency and research fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital.

According to his biography posted on the USF website, Barness’ career spanned more than 55 years and was filled with professional accolades and awards, including the prestigious John Howland Medal from the American Pediatric Society, recognized as the highest praise attainable in pediatrics. He also had earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics in recognition of his outstanding teaching; the Abraham Jacobi Award from the American Academic of Pediatrics and the Joseph St. Geme Leadership award, bestowed from all of the pediatric societies, the biography said.

He has been inducted into the Pediatrics Hall of Fame, an organization established in Philadelphia to honor physicians who have made remarkable contributions to the practice of pediatrics.

His research field focused on infant nutrition and metabolism and he is the author of over 260 papers, 95 book chapters and 50 books.

He and his wife, Enid Gilbert-Barness, also a medical doctor, recently published the eighth edition of Pediatric Physical Diagnosis.

Besides being dedicated to his career, he was an extremely humble man, Carver said. “A real gentleman.”

“He was the most kind and compassionate person you could imagine,” she said. “The cleaning people at the school adored him. He would chat with them and ask how their families were doing.

“He cared about all the people around him.”

kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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