Author and Scholar John M. Barry delivers 41st Hyman History Lecture

Professor John M. Barry was guest speaker this fall at the Department of Anesthesiology’s 41st annual endowed Allen I. Hyman, MD History of Anesthesia lecture. Professor Barry is the author of the 2004 book The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.

His presentation,“’The past is never dead. It's not even past.’ Comparisons, Lessons, and Questions from 1918 and Today,” described how the 1918 global pandemic was prologue to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and how both were affected by politics and public health missteps.

One lesson to take away from the pandemics, according to Barry, is that "leaders should tell the truth" for greater cooperation from the populace. Another is that non-pharmaceutical interventions like masks are effective public health measures but only if they are used widely and for an extended period of time.

Professor Barry is a prize-winning and New York Times best-selling author whose books have won multiple awards. The National Academies of Sciences named The Great Influenza the year's outstanding book on science or medicine. His 2007 book, Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, won the Francis Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians for the year's best book of American history and in 2005 the New York Public Library named it one of the 50 best books in the preceding 50 years, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

In 2004, Professor Barry began working with the National Academies and several federal government entities on influenza preparedness and response, and he was a member of the original team that developed plans for mitigating a pandemic by using non-pharmaceutical interventions until a vaccine becomes available. Both the Bush and Obama administrations sought his advice on influenza preparedness and response.

Before becoming a writer, Barry coached football at the high school and college levels, and in 2022 was inducted into the Tulane University Athletic Hall of Fame. Professor Barry currently is a Distinguished Scholar at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Dr. Allen I. Hyman revolutionized care for premature infants by creating the first neonatal intensive care unit at Columbia University Medical Center. Between 1985 and 1993, he served as Acting Chair and then Vice Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology. During his tenure, Dr. Hyman was awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship to apply his medical expertise and health-care leadership at the federal level. He was named Chief of Staff and Chief Medical Officer at Presbyterian Hospital in 1993 and became Senior Physician and Special Advisor to the CEO in 1999, serving until his retirement in 2003. He is a generous benefactor to the department and CUIMC, with endowments for two lectures annually, the Allen I. Hyman Lecture in Critical Care and the Allen I. Hyman Lecture in the History of Anesthesiology.