The O&P community recently said goodbye to a friend and well-known advocate.
Anthony â€œTonyâ€� Barr was well known throughout the profession for his many contributions to amputee communities through his role as president of the Barr Foundation as well as his passionate outlook on the future of O&P both nationally and internationally. He died on March 5 at the age of 59.
In 1972, Barr lost his foot in a train accident. The following years would prove difficult as time after time he was sent home from prosthetistsâ€™ offices with ill-fitting devices. Because of these experiences, as well as those of William G. Barr, his father and fellow amputee, Barr was even more adamant about those things he believed in, which led to the eventual origin of the Barr Foundation. Since its inception, the organization has helped more than 1,200 amputees reclaim their lives, said Jack Richmond, area sales manager for the Fillauer Companies and Barr Foundation board member.
â€œTony focused on how he could help as many amputees as possible,â€� Richmond said. â€œHe was a very passionate individual.â€�
This was evident through his work and contributions where it was needed most â€“ in places like Honduras, where the Barr Foundation reached out in 2001 in response to various O&P concerns including overall poor health care and the knowledge of hundreds of thousands of land mines along the countryâ€™s border.
â€œWherever there was a need for amputee care, he was there,â€� Ron Gingras, CPO and director of orthotics and prosthetics at Shrinerâ€™s Hospital in Tampa, Fla. said.
A passion for progress
Among those things that Barr was most passionate about were the Ertl procedure and mandatory minimal standards for O&P providers through state licensure. His passion was often the source of heated debate, but those close to him stand by his message.
“He knew that what he was fighting for was needed,” King said of Barr’s unbending stance on issues of importance.
Richmond said that if Barr seemed to want to rush through bureaucracy it was because he once commented that “the longest hours of an amputee’s life are those spent waiting for a limb or wearing one that causes pain.”
Barr called attention to a different viewpoint of the issues and encouraged others to do the same to bring about health care reform and raise standards.
“He encouraged you to think about orthotic and prosthetic issues from more of a global perspective,” Gingras said. “Tony had a great heart and a way of getting to the truth of things.”
Gingras also recalled requesting Barr’s presence in Tallahassee in 1997 to testify before the Florida Senate Health Care Committee about state licensure.
“When it was his time to testify, Tony lifted a duffle bag with no less than nine legs onto a table,” Gingras said. “He went onto explain to the senators that all had been previously made for him but none of them fit him adequately.”
After hearing additional testimony, the committee voted unanimously to support the licensure bill and in the same year, Barr was presented with an honorary lifetime membership to the Florida Association of Orthotists and Prosthetists, Gingras explained.
Throughout the years, Barr inspired and encouraged others through his active involvement.
“Tony helped me to understand that a single person can make a difference,” Ron King, ErtlReconstruction.com Webmaster, said. “Tony wasn’t passionate about advancing the Ertl procedure out of dedication to the Ertl family, but out of a desire for future amputees to benefit from the more thorough and beneficial procedure.”
King, an amputee since December 2003, has also undergone the Ertl procedure and explained that he tries to provide assistance through moral and mental support for other amputees as a result of knowing Barr and witnessing his enthusiasm firsthand.
“Other than him being a personal friend and someone I admired, he was one of the best advocates I ever met,” Gingras said.
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Jennifer Hoydicz is a staff writer for O&P Business News.