The son of an obstetrician, Dr. Brandon Barney knew early he wanted to go to medical school. While studying at the University of Utah, a radiation oncologist mentored Dr. Barney and put him on the path to healing Utah County cancer patients through targeted therapy.
Dr. Barney is also a member of the local tumor board — a multidisciplinary collection of medical specialists discussing cancer patients and determining the best treatments available.
Patient priority “When I meet with a new patient, I take the approach that they have had nothing explained to them at all and that they’re scared. If I can give them what they need — maybe some hope, maybe just answers — then they will walk out and say that things are better because we had this meeting. If I can go home and say that I did that for everyone with whom I met, then it was a good day.”
Medical misconceptions “People hear ‘radiation’ and they immediately think of Chernobyl and radiation poisoning. I consult about why this is different than what they see on TV. We are much safer. The risk of cancer being caused by the treatment is about 1 in 10,000. I wish people would come in feeling better about radiation therapy.”
Crucial communication “You have to be able to compartmentalize when you have to deliver bad news. It’s like being a baseball closer. You have to be with the person across from you. You have to be honest with people. You have to be willing to use words like ‘death’ and ‘die.’ You get better at it, but you never insulate yourself completely. You’re going to shed tears with patients, and I think that’s OK. I have the ability to be incredibly in the moment with someone — feeling true empathy for that person — and then compartmentalize it and do it again. It’s not easy.”
The local climate “Utah County is an attractive place to practice because it combines high growth with generally forward-thinking people. Plus, there’s a spirituality element here in cancer treatment. People have this understanding of prayer and that people are praying for them. There’s a physician’s role that is part of their faith, too.”
Doctor dos “Look for a doctor who is willing to listen to you and communicates effectively. As a patient, it’s really hard to judge clinical competence. But, if you can sit in the room with a physician and they can explain what they’re doing and help you understand why they are doing it, then that’s a good start. It lets you be an active participant in your care.”