College of American Pathologists
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In memoriam:
James D. Barger, MD 1917-2002

June 2002

Former CAP president James D. Barger, MD, died April 3. He was 84.

Dr. Barger, who was CAP president from 1981 to 1983, held numerous leadership posts at the College, among them vice president, secretary-treasurer, and governor from 1966 to 1971.

Dr. Barger, a CAP member for more than 50 years, was named CAP Pathologist of the Year in 1977 and received the ASCP/CAP Joint Distinguished Service Award in 1985. He also chaired the now defunct Management Seminar Development and Publications Committee and was a member of the Commission of Laboratory Inspection and Accreditation (now the Commission on Laboratory Accreditation). He will be remembered for his accomplishments in such areas as laboratory inspection, quality control, blood banking, management, and oncology.

"He was certainly a fascinating man and probably one of the most influential presidents the College has had," says Paul Bachner, MD, immediate past president of the CAP.

Retired pathologist and former CAP president Raymond Zastrow, MD, admired Dr. Barger, a longtime friend and colleague, for his ability to inspire younger generations. "He was a very good developer of young talent in the CAP and that legacy continues today," Dr. Zastrow says.

Dr. Barger spent the majority of his career at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, where he began as director of clinical pathology in 1964 and eventually became chairman of the Department of Laboratory Medicine. He retired from part-time status at the hospital in the early 1990s. He also taught in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Nevada at Reno and had numerous papers published.

Dr. Barger received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1941. He served as an Army Medical Corps officer from 1942 to 1946, earning the rank of major. He obtained a master of science degree in pathology from the Mayo Foundation in 1949.

Throughout his career, Dr. Barger was active in numerous organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Society of Clinical Pathologists, Nevada Society of Pathologists, American Association of Blood Banks, American Cancer Society, and American Society for Quality Control.

J. Daniel Wilkes, MD, retired chairman of the pathology department at Sunrise Hospital and a former member of the CAP Board of Governors, recalls Dr. Barger as a passionate innovator whose medical talents were matched by his political skills.

"He was just a superb politician. He taught me more about trying to manage politics than anybody I know," Dr. Wilkes says.

Dr. Barger was a true visionary whose skills and interests extended beyond medicine and politics, adds Dr. Wilkes. He was an avid track-and-field enthusiast and an accomplished amateur gourmet cook.

"It’s true that his interests in pathology were paramount in his life and his contributions were there, but he was one of the most interesting people that I have ever known," says Dr. Wilkes. "He was a wonderful friend and I valued his friendship mightily."

Dr. Barger is survived by his son, James D. Jr.; daughters, Mary Susan and Mary Elizabeth; brother, Michael; and eight grandchildren.

Karen Southwick is a writer in San Francisco.