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CONCERT Member Of The Month: Professor Michael Barton

By Linda Music

In his own words, Michael Barton is very good at compartmentalising his life. So good, in fact, that he has managed to create a workable balance, fitting in a myriad of professional roles around a physically active and intriguing personal life.

Holding multiple professional roles including CONCERT Director, Scientia Professor Faculty of Medicine, UNSW, Director of SPHERE Cancer Clinical Academic Group, Director Collaboration for Cancer Outcomes Research and Evaluation Group (CCORE), Editor of the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology (JMIRO), it is difficult to imagine how Professor Barton manages to fit in sleep let alone the time for pursuits outside all these roles.

But he does manage to find time.

He cycles 35km to work a few days a week, goes hiking and birdwatching on the weekends and practises the baroque flute in the evenings. He also plays the clarinet which he picked up 20 years ago as a show of solidarity with his three children who were each learning a musical instrument at the time.

“I thought if they could do it, I could do it.”

This compassionate and committed approach extends beyond his family and into his professional life. In 2007, Professor Barton received an Order of Australia Medal for his service to medicine, particularly radiation oncology. Since then he has received numerous awards including the Medical Oncology Group of Australia Oncology Cancer Achievement Award in 2012 and the Health Service Research Award from Research Australia in 2016.

His commitment to radiation oncology saw the development of an introductory oncology course which is now recognised and available internationally, with over 2,500 students having undertaken the course, worldwide.

Professor Barton has chaired reviews of cancer services throughout Australia as well as internationally.

“These reviews examined cancer services by looking at the gaps, who is missing out on treatment and the optimal proportion of new cancers that would benefit from receiving radiotherapy treatment.”

Professor Barton and his CCORE team were instrumental in developing the benchmarks for optimal radiation service delivery, that are used to decide where new services go, not only in Australia, but across Europe and Great Britain.  He has also worked for the United Nations on radiotherapy projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America and has chaired the WHO technical document on risk-profiling radiotherapy.

Despite his esteemed reputation, as well as the magnitude of his contributions to radiation oncology, Professor Barton carries no airs and graces about him. He looks to his achievements with a proud acceptance and without any shred of self-importance.  

In his own words, Professor Barton is good at compartmentalising his life. But what he doesn’t say, and what is glaringly obvious, is that these compartments are bursting at the seams with accolades, achievements and a genuine respect by all who know him.