Diane Barber surprised as Arceneaux Award winner
Diane Barber, Ph.D., is the recipient of the 2014 Ethel Fleming Arceneaux Outstanding Nurse-Oncologist Award. The Brown Foundation, Inc. established the award in 1982.
Barber, who works in Investigational Cancer Therapeutics, Phase I Clinical Trials Program, received a cash award of $15,000, a crystal plaque and a commemorative pin at a June ceremony led by Ron DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson.
“Diane makes an extraordinary impact on the lives of our patients and their loved ones, and she enriches the lives of her friends and colleagues,” DePinho says.
Earlier in the month, 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 a bouquet of flowers amidst an uproar of applause. (Watch the video)
“That is the proudest moment of my career,” says Barber, a nurse for 26 years. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d be nominated, let alone be 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, 'Julia,' whose lead character was an African-American nurse,” she says. “It was the most awesome thing at that time because I didn’t have any health care role models in my family. My parents and grandparents didn’t finish high school.”
Barber says her Phase I clinical trial patients, many who have advanced stage cancer and haven’t responded to standard treatments, motivate her to give her all every day.
“Our patients are willing to leave their homes, jobs and families to participate in our clinical trials,” 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 working full time.
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.
The Brown Foundation encourages Arceneaux Award winners to use the prize money to indulge themselves and take a break from the selflessness their profession requires. Barber plans to treat herself to a blue Coach bag she’s been eyeing for years and then will embark on a vacation with her husband.