Tell Mickey Barber ’82 to act her age, and she’ll tell you that’s exactly what she’s doing. Sure, she might be the oldest competitor in the 2013 South Carolina Excalibur Fitness Competition, but that certainly isn’t going to stop the 58-year- old. It didn’t stop her 10 years ago, when – as one of the oldest competitors that year – she placed second for Figure Over 35. It’s certainly not going to stop her now.
Besides, she says, “I feel better at 58 than I did at 48! And I’m more fit, too!”
That’s partly because Barber practices what she preaches as the CEO/CMO of Cenegenics Carolinas, a Charleston-based age-management medical institute that uses a combination of exercise, nutrition, lifestyle and hormone optimization to help patients look and feel younger and to improve the quality of their lives.
But it’s also because Barber has far too much energy to let a number slow her down.
From an early age, Barber’s energy translated into an industrious work ethic. She got her first job at age 15 and, by the time she was enrolling at the College at age 23, she’d been working as a respiratory therapist for five years. At the College, the biology major continued working as a respiratory therapist at MUSC, as well as a server at Garibaldi’s and a bartender at The Last Catch. She went on to complete her medical degree at MUSC, her residency in anesthesiology at Tulane and her fellowship in obstetrical anesthesia at Harvard.
It was after she’d served as an assistant professor at Tulane and was a practicing anesthesiologist back in Charleston that she started slowing down.
“I was struggling with a lot of fatigue, a lot of pain,” Barber says. “The fatigue was so overwhelming that I had to pull over while I was driving in the middle of the day. I couldn’t stay awake.”
It was clearly out of character, but – even though she visited countless doctors across the country – no one could offer her any relief. Barber knew she couldn’t just live like this: She had to do something.
“I did some research and became interested in the relationship between hormones, stress reduction, fitness, lifestyle and nutrition,” says Barber,
whose quest eventually led her to the Cenegenics Medical Institute in Las Vegas, where she began studying – and applying – age-management medicine. “I found a lot of interventions really helped me, and, when I was well enough to go back to practicing medicine again, that’s what I decided to do.”
And so, 12 years ago, she opened the first Cenegenics center outside of Las Vegas and now has a satellite office in Charlotte, too.
“It has been really, really fun to be a part of this and to see it take off like it has,” says Barber, who attributes the popularity of the Cenegenics approach to the fact that it just makes sense. “We practice good medicine: There’s nothing weird or alternative in what we do. There’s nothing more basic than fitness, nutrition and lifestyle.”
And, when done right, these things give the body an incredible energy boost.
“The body is equipped to keep going, you just have to maintain it. It’s like having a beautiful Mercedes and putting the wrong kind of gas in it,” says Barber. “It’s the same thing with your body. You have to give it the right kind of fuel.”
Barber, for one, is fueled not just by her restored energy and health, but by the turn her career took in the process.
“It’s so fun. I don’t think of my job as a job. You have to love what you do. And I do,” she says, noting that she is constantly reading medical journals and studies for the next new discovery about how different factors interact to affect the body. “I’m really focused. I’m very fortunate to have a really good work ethic.
“I’m also willing to take some risks. A lot of time it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I always make it work somehow,” Barber continues with a laugh. “I don’t take no for an answer.”
Nor does she take age for an excuse.
– Alicia Lutz ’98
Editor’s Note: Barber’s daughter, Lindsay Segal, is continuing Barber’s legacy as a freshman at the College this fall.