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Dr. Phoebe Lindsey Barton (left) and Jennifer Myers (right)

Remembering Dr. Phoebe Lindsey Barton

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Written by Jennifer Myers on December 5, 2022

Condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Phoebe Lindsey Barton, PhD, professor of health policy and the MSPH program director at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center from 1990 until her retirement in 2008. Phoebe passed away on November 9, 2022.

Dr. Barton earned her bachelor’s degree from Boise State University in 1969 and her master’s degree in Public Administration from Boise State in 1977. She oversaw state health departments in both Idaho and Alaska, and then completed her PhD at UCLA in 1987. Barton served as faculty at the UCLA School of Public Health, and worked as a consultant at RAND Corporation, prior to coming to the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 1990.

During her time at CU, Barton was responsible for both the expansion of the MSPH program and its reaccreditation, as well as starting the very popular certificate program which gave students a chance to “try on” public health or obtain program experience before applying. 

She is remembered for teaching her students to think critically and inspiring them make a difference in the lives of others. Barton helped launch the careers of numerous public health professionals who graduated from the MSPH program during her tenure, and she furthered the careers of many others.

She was an impassioned advocate for single-payer healthcare, and a sought-after subject matter expert in the field of health policy. Barton served on the Council for Education in Public Health (CEPH), the accrediting body for programs and schools of public health. In 1998, she wrote a textbook, Understanding the U.S. Health Services System, which was subsequentially adopted by a number of colleges and universities for use in their coursework. The book is still in publication today.

Barton loved academia in general, and all the pomp and circumstance that went with it. Graduation season was one of her favorite times of year, and she enjoyed educating students on the customs and etiquette of graduation.

She was presented with a special recognition award on May 23, 2008, at the final MSPH graduation from the CU School of Medicine; the Colorado School of Public Health offered the MPH degree after opening on July 1, 2008. Barton was honored for her commitment to excellence in graduate education, and to the many students who completed the MSPH program under her leadership over the years.

On a personal note, she loved traveling, the Beatles, dark chocolate, and reading nearly any book she could get her hands on.

Barton reminded students frequently that the word impact should only be used when describing a collision between two objects, and not the influence one person has upon another. Whether she likes it or not, her students will tell you that she made a lasting impact on them, both personally and professionally.

Her students and colleagues will always remember her kindness, humor, and passion for learning. They will never forget the towering stack of journal articles on the table in her office, either. Anyone who knew Dr. Barton is better for it, and she will be missed more than she could ever know.

Written by Jennifer Myers, MSPH ’08, legacy alum of the Colorado School of Public Health, and past student and friend of Dr. Phoebe Barton. Jennifer is pictured with Phoebe above at her graduation from the program.