Dr. Henry Barnett becomes first person outside Europe to receive Karolinska Stroke Award

October 29, 2008

Dr. Henry JM Barnett, London, Ontario, receives the Karolinska Stroke Award for Excellence in Stroke Research. The prize amounts to 100,000 SEK. The laureate will receive the prize from the President of Karolinska Institutet Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson during the Karolinska Stroke Update meeting in Stockholm November 17, 2008. Barnett is the first non-European to receive this prestigious award. The Karolinska Institutet also awards the Nobel Prize annually.

Barnett's key research field is prevention of stroke. For younger colleagues, he will be primarily remembered as an enthusiastic coordinator of the North American Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial (NASCET). Together with a European study of similar design this trial provided the scientific evidence for operation on tight atherosclerotic manifestations on the carotid artery of the neck, since then one of the most important interventions to prevent recurrent stroke after transient or mild cerebrovascular warning symptoms.

Before the NASCET study, Barnett was leading another extensive trial, with quite a different outcome. In North America, and some other medical centres in the world, clinics were established to perform extracranial-intracranial (EC-IC) bypass surgery, in patients with total occlusion of one of the major supplies to the brain, the internal carotid artery. Through an opening of the skull bone, arteries on the outside of the skull were connected with those on the surface of the brain. The EC-IC bypass study showed that these operations did not benefit patients and in the mid 1980s, these operations were almost totally stopped. Today we know that before any conclusions can be made on the severity of an occluded carotid artery, an evaluation of alternative (collateral) blood flow supply to the brain is essential.

Even earlier, in 1970, Barnett was leading the Canadian Aspirin Trial which established, for the first time, that any antiplatelet drug could prevent diseases (in this case stroke) due to arterial thrombosis.

Barnett was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in England and moved with his parents to Canada as a child. He entered medicine at the University of Toronto where he graduated in 1944. He did his junior rotating internship at the Toronto General Hospital and later completed training in neurology in Toronto in 1950. After two years at Queen Square in London, UK, and later a research assistant in Oxford, he obtained a fellowship from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (F.R.C.P.(C.)). From 1952 to 1967 he was neurologist at the Toronto General Hospital and from 1966 to 1969 Chief of the Division of Neurology at Sunnybrook Medical Centre. In 1969 he was invited to become the Chief of the Division of Neurology at The University of Western Ontario and Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario. From 1974 to 1984 he served as Chairman of the Department of Clinical Neurological Sciences at The University of Western Ontario. In 1986, he co-founded the Robarts Research Institute and was named its first Scientific Director.

Barnett's extraordinary contributions to stroke research have changed the management of millions of stroke patients. The implementation of his research has prevented an unaccountable number of strokes. He has shown the strength of research by revealing that some routinely used procedures were supported by science, others were not.

For these contributions, Dr. Henry JM Barnett is awarded the Karolinska Stroke Award for Excellence in Stroke Research in 2008.
-end-


University of Western Ontario

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