Barry Byrne, M.D.: Spirit of Gainesville nominee
Published: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 4:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 4:13 p.m.
Dr. Byrne has been relentless in his pursuit of a treatment/cure for various forms of rare diseases, such as Pompe Disease, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Barth's Syndrome. His focus on oft overlooked diseases has put the University of Florida on the map in new advances for these diseases. In the past year, he has facilitated groundbreaking procedures to be performed at UF by arranging for the first adult and pediatric Pompe Disease patients to have a surgery that would take them off of their ventilators for extended periods of time, vastly improving their quality of life.
About Barry Byrne, M.D.
Occupation: Physician, Professor and associate chair of Pediat
Years in Gainesville: 15
Spouse: Laura Byrne
Children: Heather, Alyson and Tyler
As a pediatric cardiologist, he became acutely aware of the effects of the fatal consequences of Pompe disease in infants. When asked how he became interested in the rare disease he stated,” The interest – as many times when we work back and forth between the laboratory and the clinic – is really often triggered by a patient encounter. In my residency, there were several patients that I met with this condition long before there was a treatment available. Seeing the challenge that they face, and subsequently the hope and interest of patients to participate in clinical studies has been really motivating. It was met with the need to help these families and children who encounter this problem”. Because of his work, there are treatments available now, which though not a cure, have extended the life of these patients.
Many researchers work tirelessly in labs, but Dr. Byrne takes it a step (or I should say, several elevated steps) further. In the past four years, he has taken his own vacation time to climb mountains literally) to help bring about awareness and raise support for a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He started with a group in 2009 climbing Mt. Rainer and this past June, he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for the cause. He also convinced the Tanzanian government that he would be responsible for the safety of one of the youngest climbers ever, an 8 yr. old boy from California. While on this climb, he also saved the life of a young climber who was suffering from severe dehydration. All in a day's work for Dr. Byrne.
When I think of who benefits from Dr. Byrne's efforts, I think of all the patients who don't have large charities fighting for their treatments and cures. His efforts to aid in this type of research gives hope to many patients who would otherwise be faced with a certainty of early death, and families who can now look to the future with much more promise.
Dr. Byrne is currently the Co-Director of the newly founded, multi-disciplinary Muscular Dystrophy clinic, supported by the MDA, on campus. This new clinic helps severely disabled patients come to Gainesville for one day, where all their medical needs can be met in one place. Imagine the difficulty of having a child in a wheelchair and/on a ventilator doing several appointments over different days and times. This puts the patient's needs first and this has always been one of Dr. Byrne's priorities.
I could go on and on, but I think anyone who has ever met Dr. Byrne knows how lucky this community is to have him. He recently helped a struggling family find a way to move to Gainesville so their daughter could be closer to Shands for treatment. He never says no to any request for his time, no matter if it is a weekend, evening or holiday. He has done all this while managing to be a great father to his three children, and a fun-loving exercise enthusiast with his wife Laura.
Submitted by Katie Boudreau
I would like to add my enthusiastic support of Barry J. Byrne, MD, PhD for the Spirit of Gainesville Award. As the Science Director of a rare-disease organization I have the privilege of knowing Dr. Byrne and of benefiting from the valuable advice and suggestions that he has made to me and to the community I represent. Dr. Byrne has been a long-time member of our Scientific and Medical Advisory Board which guides the direction of our organization in those matters. You will probably be inundated with letters of support for Dr. Byrne from patients and patient families, but I wanted to add to the chorus in pointing out some of his other qualities. Dr. Byrne is a forward thinking physician-scientist who pushes the envelope of what defines good clinical care. He is always there for the people who need him. One of the major factors that contributes to our success as a patient advocacy group is the special relationship that many of our members have with Dr. Byrne, especially the members who live in Florida. It is no surprise to anyone that we hold our unique biennial international conferences in Florida with its vigorous volunteer base of supporters who know Dr. Byrne.
Perhaps the most telling characteristic of Dr. Byrne is his ability to attract people to take on important medical causes--he creates interest! In our situation as a rare disease organization, attracting new researchers is our hope to obtain the better future we envision, and Dr. Byrne has played a major part in fulfilling this. It is difficult to ask people to be involved in a little-known disease and to devote their professional attention to it. Many of the researchers and physicians that now support our community became involved through the efforts of Dr. Byrne. There is no better example of the creative spirit that I can provide.
Submitted by Matt Toth