Hendrick Barner, M.D.: 1933-2018

Hendrick Barner, M.D., a professor emeritus at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, died Dec. 31. He was 85.
Maggie Rotermund | Fri Jan 4, 2019

Hendrick Barner, M.D., professor emeritus at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, died Dec. 31. He was 85.

Barner spent more than 30 years as a cardiothoracic surgeon at SLU. He was a pioneer in the field of cardiac surgery and was one of the earliest proponents for the use of arterial grafts to bypass blocked blood vessels in the heart, a technique now employed almost universally.

“Rick Barner was the finest coronary surgeon I have ever seen,” said Keith Naunheim, M.D., professor of cardiothoracic surgery and chief of thoracic surgery at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. “But as impressive as his technical expertise was, I will remember him more for his intellect and remarkable generosity. Those attributes made him one of the finest teachers with whom I have even been associated.”

Naunheim described Barner as a leader, as well as a master craftsman of surgery. In the 1990s, Barner pioneered yet another new technique for cardiac bypass. Known as a T-graft configuration, the technique uses arteries from both the arm and chest to form a t-shaped conduit around the diseased portions of the heart.

For this and other achievements, the Greater St. Louis Chapter of the American Heart Association honored Barner with the Hugh D. McCulloch Award in 2012. The award is given each year to an individual in the field of cardiology or neurology who symbolizes the integrity and values of the American Heart Association.

Barner received both his undergraduate and his medical degrees from the University of Washington in Seattle. Barner served in the U.S. Navy, remaining in the Naval Reserve until 1991. While on active duty in Germany in the early 1960s, he met his wife Mechtild while she was worked as an English interpreter. They married in March 1961 and came to SLU in 1966.

In 1985, the SLU chapter of Sigma Xi named him scientist of the year.  He was elected president of the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association in 1998.

He left the University in 1991 and spent time at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Washington University in St. Louis before returning to SLU in 2006.

He is survived by his sons Boyer (Cindi Earl), Bjorn (Sandra) and Bela (Rachel); and grandchildren Sydney and Zachary. His wife, Mechtild “May” Barner, preceded him in death in 2011.

No local funeral service is planned.