Bruce Barrett received M.D. and Ph.D. (Anthropology) degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1992, then did an international health fellowship with Johns Hopkins University at a World Health Organization research institute in Guatemala. A 1997 graduate of the Eau Claire residency program, Dr. Barrett completed the Madison-based primary care research fellowship in 1999. He joined the Department of Family Medicine faculty in 2000, was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2006, full Professor in 2013, and Vice Chair of Research in 2019.
Completed research projects include:
- several health-related research projects in Nicaragua (1984-91)and Guatemala (1992-93)
- cross-cultural health care for Hmong patients in Eau Claire (1994-96)
- village-based primary health care for ethnic minorities in the Vietnam highlands (1995-97)
- qualitative study of complementary and alternative medicine in Madison (1998-99)
- randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials of echinacea for common cold (1999-2007)
- randomized controlled trial (PEP) assessing placebo effects in acute respiratory infection (2004-07)
- development and validation of a questionnaire instrument for assessing acute respiratory infection illness (Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey = WURSS) (2000-present)
- benefit harm trade-off methods (BHTO) to assess sufficiently important difference (SID) for trial design and medical decision-making (2003-present)
- randomized controlled trials testing behavioral trainings in mindfulness meditation or moderate intensity exercise to prevent acute respiratory infection (MEPARI & MEPARI-2 trials, 2009-present).
- Mindful Climate Action, an eco-wellness behavioral health program aiming for the co-benefits of personal and health and ecological sustainability.
Dr. Barrett was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar program as he developed SID theory and BHTO methods. The PEP and MEPARI trials were funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH, formerly NCCAM). The PEP trial (physician, echinacea, placebo) tested treatment effects of echinacea, placebo, and doctor-patient interaction on acute respiratory infection (ARI). The first MEPARI trial (meditation or exercise for preventing acute respiratory infection) tested preventive effects of 8-week trainings in mindfulness meditation or moderately strenuous exercise on all-cause ARI over a single cold and flu season. Substantive reductions in incidence, severity and duration of ARI were observed. A second, larger MEPARI-2 trial confirmed the ARI-preventing effects of mindfulness meditation and exercise, but found somewhat smaller effect sizes.
Dr. Barrett is Director of the U.W. Primary Care Research Fellowship, which provides research training to primary care physicians and post-doctoral scientists, and is sponsored by a T32 National Research Service Award from the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Finally, Bruce is an engaged citizen, a family man, and an environmental health and human rights activist. He volunteers with Wisconsin Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainability, and Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action. He is actively engaged in seeking solutions to the threats posed by global warming and climate change. When not busy with research, clinical care and community service, Bruce can be found enjoying life with his family and friends, and/or running, biking, swimming, skiing, hiking, climbing, canoeing or sailing.