Diane Barber receives MD Anderson’s highest nursing honor

Diane Barber, Ph.D., of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, is the recipient of the 2014 Ethel Fleming Arceneaux Outstanding Nurse-Oncologist Award. The Brown Foundation, Inc. established the award in 1982 as the institution’s highest nursing honor. 

An MD Anderson committee comprising clinical faculty, patient care administration and nursing staff reviewed award nominations submitted by peers and patients. The committee then narrowed the selection to three finalists before ultimately naming Barber as their top choice. She works in Investigational Cancer Therapeutics, Phase I Clinical Trials Program.

Barber will receive a cash award of $15,000, a crystal plaque and a commemorative pin at 1 p.m. June 26 in the Onstead Auditorium in MD Anderson’s George and Cynthia Mitchell Basic Sciences Research Building. MD Anderson President Ron DePinho, M.D., will lead the award ceremony.

On June 9, co-workers, friends and members of the selection committee surprised Barber with the news. Hardly able to catch her breath, she accepted a plaque and bouquet of flowers amidst an uproar of applause.

Diane Barber, Ph.D., could barely catch her breath when she 
learned she’d received MD Anderson’s highest nursing honor. 

“That was the proudest moment of my career,” says Barber, who’s been a nurse for 26 years. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d be nominated, let alone a finalist. And to win, I just keep thinking I’m in a dream and need to wake up.”

Barber came to MD Anderson in 1998 and joined Investigational Cancer Therapeutics in 2009. She developed an interest in nursing when she was 10.

“In the late 1960s, there was a TV program whose lead character was an African-American nurse named Julia,” she says. “It was the most awesome thing at that time because I didn’t have any health care role models in my family. 

Barber says her Phase I clinical trial patients, many who have advanced stage cancer that hasn’t responded to standard treatments, motivate her to give her all every day.

“It’s amazing how our patients are willing to leave their homes, jobs and families to participate in our clinical trials, not even knowing if they’ll get any benefit,” she says. “Their courage, spirit and hope constantly inspire me.”

Aside from winning the Arceneaux Award, Barber says her greatest accomplishment is earning her doctorate of philosophy in nursing. She achieved this lifelong dream in 2012 while maintaining full-time employment at MD Anderson.

Barber, who already teaches nursing part time, plans to become a full-time professor when she retires from nursing. She feels it’s part of her purpose to help educate the next generation of nurses.

The Arceneaux Award ceremony, on Thursday, June 26, at 6767 Bertner Ave., will include presentations by:

  • Ron DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson
  • Barbara Summers, Ph.D., vice president for nursing and chief nursing officer
  • Colleen Villamin, recipient of the 2013 Arceneaux Award
  • Diane Barber, Ph.D., recipient of the 2014 Arceneaux Award

1 p.m. Arceneaux Award presentation

1:30 p.m. Reception honoring Diane Barber

2 p.m. Reception concludes

Media may park in the John McGovern Commons Garage. Contact Miriam Smith to attend.