MERRILLVILLE | He walked a red carpet and rubbed elbows with celebrities, but a local doctor who joins the ranks of Nobel Prize winners and past presidents in receiving the Ellis Island Medal of Honor says he doesn't do good works for the praise.
Munster resident and triple-board certified Dr. Bharat Barai, medical director of oncology at Methodist Hospitals, received the medal in May at an awards gala that included a performance by Broadway actors at the Ritz-Carlton in New York, a boat trip to Ellis Island and red carpet entrance.
He said he was humbled and honored by the award.
The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations sponsors the awards, which are presented annually to "American citizens who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life," according to the coalition.
For Barai, that means listening to his conscience.
He treats uninsured patients and works with drug companies to reduce their cost of medication.
In the past five months, four women between 35 and 50 years old arrived at his office with no insurance and a diagnosis of breast cancer.
"How can you allow a 42-year-old young woman to die, because she doesn't have health insurance?" Barai said. "It's not right to my conscience. I've never denied service to people simply because of their insurance (status)."
Barai has volunteered with many organizations, including serving as medical director of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Northwest Indiana and as director of the American Cancer Society in Northwest Indiana.
"Dr. B.H. Barai has been a key member of the Methodist Hospitals medical staff leadership for many years, having served as president of the medical staff, as a member of the Board of Directors, and as the medical director of the Methodist Hospitals Oncology Institute," Methodist Hospitals President and CEO Ian McFadden said.
"Methodist Hospitals salutes the many accomplishments of Dr. Barai that have won him this prestigious recognition as a 2013 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. We are proud to count him as a member of the Methodist Hospitals family."
Barai also is clinical assistant professor of medicine at Indiana University Medical School and a member and former president of the Medical Licensing Board of the state of Indiana. He also serves on the advisory board of the Indiana University School of Business.