Irish doc who inspired Clooney in ER honoured
HE is the Irish doctor and gunshot wounds expert who helped inspire the TV role that catapulted George Clooney to stardom.
University College Cork (UCC) graduate Dr John Barrett was one of the key models for the role of Dr Doug Ross in the smash-hit US TV series, ER.
It was as Dr Ross that George Clooney got his first big break and went on to become one of Hollywood's most influential stars.
Dr Barrett, a native of Turner's Cross in Cork, qualified as a doctor in 1969 but went on to become the director of the world-renowned trauma unit at Cook County Hospital in Illinois in the US.
Chicago suffers from one of the world's highest gun crime rates and Dr Barrett helped turn the Cook County Hospital unit into an acclaimed global centre of excellence for treating gunshot trauma injuries.
Yesterday, Dr Barrett was honoured with a UCC Alumni award alongside director John Crowley, the High Court's Justice Marie Baker, Internet expert Prof John Naughton and former Department of Communications Secretary General Brendan Tuohy.
Dr Barrett, who retired from his Cook County Hospital chairmanship in 2003, admitted he was a little taken aback by all the fuss over the ER connection.
"When I was working at Cook County I didn't get all that much time to watch TV," he said. He was, along with other trauma unit experts, interviewed by the TV production company in 1993 who wanted to turn Chicago-born writer Michael Crichton's story into ER.
The show launched in 1994 and became one of the world's most highly rated TV programmes.
"They certainly got the medicine part right," Dr Barrett smiled.
However, the ER doctors got to enjoy lakeside views from their hospital which Dr Barrett and his team never did as their facility was located in an old urban area miles from the water.
The ER doctors also got to enjoy breaks outside the hospital for a coffee and chat - in contrast to Cook County Hospital staff who never set foot outside while on duty.
The Cork doctor, who worked at the Chicago hospital for 28 years, was also delighted that he supervised the switch from its ageing old building to a high-tech purpose-built new structure.
That move took place in 2002 with the new hospital developed at a cost of over €200m.
Since his retirement, Dr Barrett has lectured and taught widely on trauma around the US and overseas and has edited over 100 papers in scientific journals and edited two major medical books.
Not surprisingly, he is also a campaigner against gun violence. Dr Barrett is a keen hiker.