Kevin Delgado Barron, MD, known internationally for his research on the regeneration of neurons in the CNS, died on Oct. 28, 2013, at the age of 84 after a long illness.
Dr. Barron had a long career in academic neurology, with a focus on neuropathology. He served as chair of the neurology department at Albany Medical College in New York (1969-1993), and remained on staff at Albany Medical Center Hospital until 2010. He had served for over 50 years as a neurologist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, as well.
I first became friends with Dr. Barron when I was a junior Columbia faculty member, serving at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, NY. He was an assistant resident (1954-55) and chief resident there from 1955-1956. His contemporaries on the Neurology House Staff included Robert Terry, MD, and Asao Hirano, MD. My assignment was to teach them clinical neurology on rounds once a week. My title may have been “Instructor,” but in many ways, I was a student of Dr. Barron and his peers.
I learned about the value of persistence firsthand when I served as a second author on one of Dr. Barron's papers. It was being presented at the 1958 annual meeting of the American Neurological Association in Atlantic City, NJ.
Dr. Barron, Harry Zimmerman, MD — one of my own neurology heroes whom I had met and had been inspired by as a high school student — and I reported on a patient from Montefiore with malignant infiltration of peripheral nerves.
Derek Denny-Brown, MD, another prominent authority, had been invited to discuss the paper. He went to the podium and, in a most polite tone of voice, said: “I am sorry to say it but that never happens.”
I was sitting in the audience next to Dr. Zimmerman's empty seat when he came back to his chair. He was livid and fuming as he said, “He cannot tell me what I have or have not seen.”
When we all returned to New York, Dr. Barron went to the lab where they kept the original peripheral nerve preparations. To my naïve astonishment, it took only a few minutes for Dr. Barron to find the glass microscope slides from the autopsy of a patient with multiple myeloma. But they had been stained for myelin and the tissue was pitch black. Infiltrating white blood cells could not be seen. So Dr. Barron de-stained the slides and re-stained them with hematoxylin and eosin.
Lo and behold! The plasma cells were now well displayed in sheets of infiltrating cells. That fortitude served him well over his long career, which included the publication of nearly 200 peer-reviewed publications.
Dr. Barron left New York to take a position as Associate in Pathology at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago (1961-1963) and then became chief of the neurology service at the Hines VA Hospital (1964-1969). He subsequently moved to the Albany Medical Center as neurologist-in-chief and director of the neuropathology research laboratory (1969-1993).
In 1993, Dr. Barron stepped down as neurology chairman, but he continued to see ambulatory patients until 1999. He then limited his practice to mostly second opinions and other medico-legal problems. He continued to serve on the New York State Retirement System Medical Board until just before he became terminally ill.
His family requested that donations may be made in his honor to the Kevin D. Barron Endowed Neuroscience Education Fund at Albany Medical Center (518-262-3322).