Tribute to Kathryn E. Barnard (1938-2015)

Photo of Kathryn Barnard contributed by Sheri Hill.

Kathryn E. Barnard, PHD, RN, FAAN
Professor Emeritus, University of Washington, School of Nursing
April 16, 1938 – June 27, 2015

A TRIBUTE: By T. Berry Brazelton, MD, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Medical School Founder, Brazelton Touchpoints Center

Kathy Barnard was like a sister to me.  We shared all sorts of confidences and ideas in ways that were almost unique.  She was one of the most generous, caring, loyal and intelligent people I have ever known.  We first met after we had started the National Center for Clinical Infant Program (NCCIP now Zero to Three) in 1970.  We asked her to join for she was the most brilliant nurse in the USA who worked with infants, small children and their families.  We fell in love and began to share ideas about working with parents of small children from birth to prevent the disorders that can occur later on.  Our shared ideas have contributed to the work each of us has done in early childhood that is now used nationally and internationally.   We were so close and eager to share that it didn’t matter and often wasn’t clear which idea was hers or mine!  It was a unique relationship from which so much creativity emerged.  I shall miss her terribly.

A TRIBUTE: By Sheri L. Hill, PhD, IMH-E® (IV-P), CCC-SLP

“What are the top three things every infant needs? How do you sum up the field of Infant Mental Health in three words? —- Relationships, relationships, relationships.” – Dr. Kathryn E Barnard

This was not only a wise statement, this was a mantra Dr. Barnard lived by. I had the privilege and honor of working with Kathy as a graduate student, a mentee, an Infant Mental Health student, a faculty colleague and then as one of two “acting daughters” over the last two decades of her life. Throughout this time, the power of her deep commitment and skill in focusing on relationships to build a better world for babies, families and the professionals who serve them has been palpable. Her career highlighted this commitment from the outset from:

  • bringing beds and chairs that allowed parents to touch and rock their babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the late 60s and early 70s,
  • to the development of the NCAST (Nursing Child Assessment Satellite Training) Teaching and Feeding Parent-Child Interaction Scales in the late 70s,
  • to serving for almost four decades on the ZERO TO THREE Board and leading the charge to publish the Diagnostic and Classification of Mental Health and Development Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood,
  • to the founding of the Barnard Center on Infant Mental Health & Development and its Infant Mental Health Certificate Program.

Kathy never stopped her quest to improve the quality of life for babies via the important relationships in their lives. However, how much she valued relationships was in many ways most evident to me as we walked together along the last few weeks and days of her life journey. As messages of love and concern poured in from hundreds of people around the world, it was clear just how many lives have been changed by a relationship with her. I know I am only one of hundreds who found our professional calling, our life’s work, simply because of Kathryn.

Part of Kathy’s influence was due to a deeply generous spirit, always willing to help others professionally and personally. However, I believe that her impact on so many professionals was exponentially increased by her visionary mind. Not only was Kathy able to envision brilliant solutions to challenging scientific questions, she was able to envision people. As one colleague noted recently, many of us (including myself) found ourselves doing things we never thought possible simply because Kathy said it was so. She would fix that deeply penetrating owlish gaze on you, see and believe in the potential for you to be a leader or conquer some challenge, and then simply state it. Suddenly, you would find yourself rising to that vision in ways you never thought possible.

Kathy’s visionary presence in our day to day lives will be sorely missed. Still, I am confident the seeds she planted via her work and so many relationships around the world, will continue to yield a bounteous harvest for decades to come.

**Please join us for a “Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Dr. Kathryn E. Barnard” on Saturday December 5th at 10:00 AM at the Washington State Convention Center.   800 Convention Pl, Seattle, WA 98101.  A brief reception will be held afterwards from 11:30-12.

All are welcome to join her Estate and ZERO TO THREE to learn about, and honor, her extensive contributions both to the field and to her many friends and colleagues.

Sheri Hill and Sandy Jolley “Acting Daughters” and Co-Personal Representatives for the Estate

Donations to the Kathryn Barnard Endorsement Fund at the Washington Association for Infant Mental Health ( in lieu of flowers are welcome.

A TRIBUTE: BY Hisako Watanabe, MD

Katherine Barnard has passed away; and we have lost one of the greatest founding members of the World Association for Infant Mental Health. When I first met her in 1986 at the 3rd World Congress of the WAIPAD (World Association for Infant Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines) in Stockholm, she was the founding treasurer of the executive board of the WAIPAD, the mother of the WAIMH.

In 1988, I met Kathy at the Pan-Pacific Regional Meeting of the WAIPAD in Hawaii, where I had brought a group of more than twenty Japanese professionals interested in infant mental health. The WAIPAD brought together divided professionals in Japan and paved a slow but steady way for the Yokohama World Congress in 2008.

Since then, I had the privilege of joining the board and seeing more of Kathy. As a newcomer to the board, I was very shy and quiet, but I was mesmerized by the intense commitment of the board members who proposed, discussed and explored numerous ideas for the benefit of infants and families. Never had I seen such a genuinely motivated group of infant professionals dedicated and humble. Among them, Kathy was always quietly and intently listening. I fondly remember Bob Emde turning to Kathy now and then to seek her approval as the treasurer. When she firmly nodded, we would go on to the next agenda item. Even today, I can vividly remember Bob’s voice appreciating Kathy on behalf of the board. “We are very fortunate to have Kathy as our treasurer. Kathy’s dedication and meticulous work is the solid financial foundation of the WAIPAD.” My experience on the WAIPAD Board sparked me to forego the ritualistic style of Japanese meetings and to open my eyes to a new, efficient, and liberal way of promoting infant mental health in Japan, hence the birth of FOUR WINDS Infant Mental Health.

Kathy was a great promotor of infant mental health and had created numerous relationships which spanned overseas and across generations. Through Kathy, I met Taiko Hirose, who was her first Japanese student nurse. Taiko brought NCAST to Japan. Through Kathy, I also met a sensitive withdrawn Japanese boy, an acquaintance of Kathy’s close Japanese friend. His mother also shared with me her experience of Kathy as a genuinely sincere person.

As a mother, I am very grateful to Kathy for helping my daughter Haruko get started in the field of infant mental health, which only I learnt later. In spring 1998, Kathy and I, together with Serge Lebovici, Elizabeth Fivaz and others were invited by Dr Martin Maldonado-Duran to the Menninger Clinic Infant Mental Health Meeting. I had brought Haruko with me. Coincidentally, a week prior, Kathy had given a lecture at the Developmental Psychology class of the University of Washington, where Haruko was an undergraduate psychology student. Soon after the Menninger meeting, Kathy encouraged Haruko to take her graduate classes, and subsequently offered her a job coding NCAST teaching video recordings. Kathy often believed in others before they believed in themselves.

In February of this year, I visited Kathy at her apartment with Haruko and 4 month-old Umi, my granddaughter. Kathy was surrounded by her family and friends. Thank you, Kathy, for being a trail blazer in the infant mental health field and for your immense support on relationships.

A TRIBUTE: By Susan Spieker, PhD, Director, Barnard Center for infant Mental Health and Development

We honor the life of Dr. Kathryn E. Barnard, who died at home June 27 after a long illness. She was 77. Kathy Barnard was renowned in her beloved field of nursing as a researcher, teacher and innovator. She was an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of infant mental health who served as a board member of the World Association of Infant Mental Health. Her life and many contributions to maternal and child health have been chronicled in obituaries in the New York Times, Boston Globe, and other international publications.

Here I add to the chorus by noting her generously supportive influence on students and younger colleagues, of which I am one, throughout her 43-year tenure at the University of Washington School of Nursing. Although Kathy retired in 2006, she remained keenly interested and involved in the field and in the work of the Center on Infant Mental Health Development, which she had founded in 2001. The center was renamed in her honor in 2012. The Barnard Center continues her vision and offers an interdisciplinary graduate certificate in infant mental health.

Kathy was my mentor and my work with her shaped my career. I arrived at her desk in 1983, a hopeful applicant for a postdoctoral fellowship with the newly funded John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Network on the Transition from Infancy to Early Childhood. Kathy was Co-PI of the Seattle “node” of this multi-site network of infancy researchers. I was a new PhD with a keen interest in infancy, in particular attachment.

Kathy had other post-docs working with her at the time. All of us went on to independent research and teaching careers. At the time Kathy was PI of Clinical Nursing Models, a randomized comparative effectiveness study of two nurse-delivered home visiting programs to help pregnant women in adverse circumstances develop nurturing, enjoyable relationships with their infants. Relationship-based intervention and prevention is still my primary research focus.

Kathy was a visionary in interdisciplinary professional development, beginning with the fact that she crafted her own PhD in the “Ecology of Early Child Development” in 1972 through the University of Washington’s Individual PhD Program. About the time she earned her PhD she became a tenured full professor of nursing and began a contract with the US Public Health Service, Division of Nursing, to develop a system for assessing behaviors of infants and caregivers essential to cognitive development. The Nursing Child Assessment Satellite Training (NCAST) parent-child interaction scales emerged from this work, as did NCAST as a unique training program that is still going strong. Since then over 21,000 health care and early childhood professionals have completed NCAST training. NCAST products for assessing and supporting caregiver-infant relationships are disseminated throughout the world.

As I reflect back on those years I appreciate how much Kathy did for many, many individuals, for families with infants and young children, and for the field of infant mental health. In her lifetime she garnered more than 20 awards from nursing and medicine, most recently from the International Society for Psychiatric Nursing, just three months before her death. Her remarks at that event included highlights from her life’s work and displayed her dry wit in excellent form. She will be greatly missed.


Tribute to Kathryn E. Barnard


Brazelton, T. Berry,
Hill, Sheri L.,
Watanabe, Hisako,
Spieker, Susan,
United States and Japan

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