Dr. Barbara Kimbrough

Dr. Barbara Kimbrough
2003 Honorary Alumni

While growing up in St. Paul, Minn., never in her wildest dreams would Barbara Olson have envisioned living in Johnson City, Tenn., and spending her career at ETSU. In spite of that, the path to East Tennessee State University actually began over 40 years ago.

As early as elementary school, Dr. Kimbrough had an interest in medicine. Her mom, an R.N., also strongly encouraged her. After high school, she enrolled at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. She completed her B.S. degree in psychology with minors in chemistry and zoology. Advanced placement credits and one session of summer school at Macalester College enabled her to graduate in three years. In 1972, Dr. Kimbrough enrolled in the charter class of the Mayo Medical School.

In the early 1970s many women who interviewed for admission to professional schools were asked the question: "How will you combine a career and family life?" One attractive, young, long-haired classmate with a mustache definitely never asked her that question. He did, however, ask her to go for a walk on a beautiful, crisp Minnesota fall day. That was the beginning of a romance that is in its 31st year.

After training, while trying to decide where the Kimbroughs might want to live and practice, they heard about Johnson City and the new medical school. The opportunity to help shape a new school and establish a division of ophthalmology was intriguing. After much deliberation they decided to try Johnson City and ETSU for one year. That year was 1980; 23 years later, Dr. Kimbrough is a professor of Surgery, Associate Chair of the Department of Surgery, and Director of the Division of Ophthalmology at ETSU's James H. Quillen College of Medicine. She has served on numerous medical school and hospital committees. She chaired the medical school admissions committee for five years. She was the interim chair of the Department of Surgery of the College of Medicine, the Chief of Surgery and Chief of Staff at Johnson City Medical Center. She hosted a visiting Chinese ophthalmologist through the China Vision Project and lectured and became an honorary professor of Xi'an 4th Hospital, Xi'an, China. She has been recognized for excellence in teaching many times, most notably by the Class of 1985 who rewarded her with the Outstanding Clinical Faculty Award. She is perhaps proudest of the more than 25 ETSU College of Medicine graduates who have become ophthalmologists.

When not traveling with her family, Dr. Kimbrough can be found jogging or swimming with her daughter Erin, golfing with her husband, Steve, practicing Spanish with her son Erik, or all alone in her room reading a good book. She is grateful for the opportunities ETSU has provided for her professionally and the lifestyle that Johnson City has provided personally!