Dr. David Barton earned a B.S. from The University of Alabama and an M.D. from Tulane University School of Medicine. He completed an internship at Ochsner Foundation Hospital and a residency in psychiatry at Tulane and its affiliated hospitals. He proudly served two years as the Division Psychiatrist for the Second Armored Division in the U.S. Army. Dr. Barton was a faculty member at The University of Virginia Medical School and later came to Nashville on the faculty of The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. This was followed by a long and dedicated career as a community clinician in general psychiatry in Nashville where he also continued to teach periodically at Vanderbilt and at Meharry Medical College.
Early in his career as a psychiatrist, Dr. Barton became increasingly interested in the manner in which the medical profession cared for patients who were dying. At Vanderbilt, with Dr. John Flexner, a fellow 2019 Hall of Fame inductee, he began to establish new approaches to end of life care, and, in December 1974, he organized a meeting of multidisciplinary caregivers at his home to explore how to apply these concepts to the general population. Subsequent meetings followed, and, in November 1975, Alive Hospice was incorporated, becoming the first hospice in the Southeast and the second or third hospice in the country. Through Alive, Drs. Barton and Flexner have changed the process of providing care for dying patients and their families in Middle Tennessee and have vastly improved care for the 65,000+ persons Alive Hospice has served since its founding. Dr. Barton served as Alive’s first Board President from 1975–1977 and has continued to serve the organization in various capacities through the years.
But his contributions to the care for dying patients have extended far beyond the founding of Alive. While in the academic setting, he developed one of the first courses in the country for medical students designed to provide instruction in caring for persons with life-threatening illnesses. As the author and editor of a textbook and numerous other publications, and as a lecturer in the field of dying, death and bereavement, Dr. Barton’s expertise on the subject has informed the training and skills of countless providers. These educational resources and efforts have continued to impact the conduct of health care and to further Dr. Barton’s goal of ensuring that all patients receive end of life care with comfort and dignity.
A dedicated practitioner, community organizer and lifelong educator, Dr. David Barton is a 2019 inductee of the Tennessee Health Care Hall of Fame.