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David Barton, M.D. & John M. Flexner, M.D.

Drs. David Barton and John M. Flexner changed the process of death in Middle Tennessee. Before they founded Alive Hospice in 1975, there was no hospice care available in the Southeast. These two men confronted ethical implications at the end of life and took an unpopular stance by founding the organization. Because of their pioneering leadership, end of life has been vastly improved for the 50,000+ patients Alive Hospice has served thus far. Drs. Flexner and Barton’s vision and tireless efforts on behalf of the terminally ill qualify them as iconic role models in medicine.

Dr. John M. Flexner earned an A.B. from Yale University and a M.D. from Johns Hopkins University. He completed his internship and residency at Vanderbilt and Yale and his fellowship training in Hematology at Vanderbilt. Dr. Flexner worked as a professor of hematology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine from 1959 to 2011. He served as the board President of Alive Hospice from 1981 to 1983 and worked as the American Cancer Society professor of oncology from 1981 to 1991.

Dr. David Barton earned a B.S. from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa and a M.D. from Tulane University School of Medicine. He completed an internship at Ochsner Clinic Foundation and a residency at Tulane University School of Medicine and affiliate hospitals, along with Charity Hospital of Louisiana. Dr. Barton has enjoyed a long and rich career in medicine as a professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and Vanderbilt School of Medicine, a division psychiatrist for the Second Armed Division at Fort Hood for the U.S. Army and a psychiatrist in private practice from 1976 to 2007. Dr. Barton served as the Alive Hospice board President from 1975 to 1977, and he currently works as an adjunct professor of psychiatry for Meharry Medical College.

Because of the work of Drs. Barton and Flexner, thousands and thousands of terminally ill patients (or, as they would say, people) have benefited from the care Alive Hospice provides — more than 32,500 in the last decade alone. The end of life is now remarkably different—comfortable, peaceful, meaningful—in Middle Tennessee because of their work. Moreover, in 2014, more than 1.66 million patients were served by hospice programs nationwide. Drs. Barton and Flexner were among the earliest advocates and pioneers of hospice care, and their work played a significant role in its growth and development as a medical specialty, nationally. Their vision, determination and commitment to make positive change to restore humanity at the end of life was, and continues to be, life-changing.