Brian Douglas Barnes, MD, 31, of Iowa City, passed away Sunday, June 27, 2021.
He was born June 2, 1990, in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of Douglas and Patsy (Okelberry) Barnes. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Science from Utah State University and a Doctor of Medicine Degree from The University of Kansas School of Medicine.
Brian was currently working as a Urology Resident at the University of Iowa.
He was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served a two-year church mission in Long Beach, California, speaking Spanish.
Brian had a passion for road and gravel cycling, rock climbing, and watching Kansas Jayhawk basketball.
Survivors include his parents and brother, Bradley (Jennekah) Barnes. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, John and Beverly (Olsen) Okelberry and Charles and Vera (Olsen) Barnes.
A Funeral Ceremony will be at 11:00 am, Saturday, July 10, 2021 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3611 SW Jewell Ave, in Topeka. A visitation will be held from 6:00pm- 8:00pm on Friday, July 9th at the church. Memorial contributions may be made in lieu of flowers to the Urology Residency Development Fund at the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. You can make your gift online at www.givetoiowa.org/urology or to the University of Iowa Center for Advancement, One West Park Road Iowa City, IA 52242. Please note that the memorial contribution is in memory of Brian Barnes.
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Brian's Life Sketch:
Brian Douglas Barnes was born on June 2, 1990 in Kansas City, Missouri. His parents were
living in Kansas while his father was in medical school. His parents were very thankful that he
was born, they had gone through infertility treatments and were very excited when they found
out that they were expecting. When Brian was 2-3 weeks of age, the family moved to
Columbus, Ohio, for otolaryngology residency.
Some babies are described as easy babies, but Brian was not one of those. He had problems
with colic, asthma, and reflux but he was truly welcomed and loved. He developed his
engaging smile early on. His parents remember that he was fairly determined early in life. He
never really backed down from a “time out” situation. Another adjective that might describe
him was stubborn.
Brian really loved Mr. Rogers Neighborhood which he watched on a 12 inch black and white
television. The family welcomed his brother Bradley when he was 3-½ years of age. He was
very excited to have a brother. On the other hand, he was somewhat frustrated. At one point he
asked the question, “When are we going to take Bradley back to the hospital?” When his
parents answered, “Never,” he seemed pretty dejected. The two of them however became
close, caring and loving brothers.
When Brian was 5, the family moved to Bellevue, Nebraska, where his father worked for the Air
Force. He went to Leonard Lawrence elementary school and enjoyed Power Rangers, HIs
father remembers his Power Rangers backpack that seemed larger than him. He also learned to
ride his bike in Bellevue. The Air Force hospital had a very large parking lot and that is where
after some difficulty he figured it out.
When Brian was 9 years of age, the family moved to Topeka, Kansas. Brian was a good
student and school in general was fairly easy for him. That is when he started to show signs of
his character. When Brian was in 6th grade, he was placed in detention because he
challenged one of his teachers. He had a large male teacher who Brian challenged because
Brian said that the teacher was not telling the truth about something. Brian would not back down
and was given a failing grade for his behavior that semester.
Brian was active in Cub Scouts, and Boy Scouts and reached the Eagle rank. For his Eagle
Scout project, he built a bridge in a nature park behind the family home. The idea of building a
bridge is a fitting metaphor for a major theme of Brian’s life. Throughout his life, he developed
multiple circles of friends. Many of them became acquainted with each other as Brian acted as
the connection between them.
Brian really wanted to be good at athletics and tried several sports. He found his best sport in
high school when he started running cross country. That is where he made his first strong friend
group. He never won races, but he became competitive and was a great teammate. Several
families have shared their memories of meeting together at the cross-country meets and
cheering for the Brian and his friends.
After graduating from Washburn Rural High School, Brian attended Utah State University in
Logan, Utah. That is where he met his next group of friends. He studied hard, but he played
much harder. His roommates and other friends helped him learn about rock climbing. They also
enjoyed hiking, skiing and other outdoor experiences. His roommates’ families made him one of
their own. He often stated that he felt like he had gained extra mothers with respect to two
During his freshman year, he had a very traumatic experience. When he was driving his car, he
made a mistake and collided with another young man on a scooter. The young man was
severely injured and required several surgeries for severe facial fractures. Later, he and Brian
became friends and their story is an incredible story of forgiveness and redemption. Please see
Douglas Barnes’ Facebook page for the details.
After his first year of college, Brian served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
-day Saints for 2 years. He served in the Spanish speaking mission in Long Beach, California.
The best way to describe this experience might be through a quote from one of his fellow
"Brian was a spectacular mission companion and friend. I loved serving the other missionaries
and the people in Long Beach with him. He loved the people and fully embraced the culture. He
was upbeat and positive and a hard worker. Everything you could ask for a companion. He was
a great missionary and had a full arsenal of jokes in Spanish. One of my favorite memories with
him was the last day of his mission. He was so bummed that his mission had come to an end,
but he made sure we got a sweet picture of him making a diving Frisbee catch in his white shirt
and tie before I could take him to the airport.
He was a great friend after the mission. We traveled down to California together several times to
visit with the people he had taught and served, including witnessing a temple sealing together. I
loved his quick wit and non-stop barrage of jokes and smiles."
After his church mission, Brian decided to major in nutrition with a plan to apply to medical
school. He continued to make more friends and was still involved with camping, skiing, and
rock climbing. As he progressed in school, he did some research regarding the Great Salt Lake.
His mentor stated, “Brian did research with me on the Great Salt Lake when he was at Utah
State University and we published a paper together. He was a pleasure to be with and his work
While at Utah State University, he continued to give his family some unwelcome excitement.
During one semester, on his first day of school, he went mountain biking prior to his first class.
He crashed his mountain bike. He called his father saying that he thought that he had fractured
some ribs. He planned to go to the ER after class. Luckily, one of his friends accompanied him
to the restroom where he passed out. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He was
diagnosed with a ruptured spleen. He did not require a splenectomy, but he did need a blood
transfusion and 5 days of hospitalization.
He really enjoyed ultimate frisbee and competed on the university team traveling to several
states in the West. Again he made another new cadre of friends. He also gave his family
some more unwelcome excitement when he fractured his clavicle playing ultimate frisbee. The
injury required surgical repair. The fracture occurred when he was diving for a Frisbee. He was
very fond of reminding his parents that he did still make the catch.
Next, Brian applied to medical school. He interviewed at several schools and was placed on the
waiting list at the University of Kansas. Just before school was set to begin, he was notified that
he had been accepted. He spent 2 years in Kansas City and 2 years in Wichita. Again he
made more friends. While in Kansas City, he enjoyed rock climbing, and he started cycling
more. He also enjoyed attending the Kansas City Royals games including the World Series. He
made several great friends during his time in Kansas City. One of his close friends was a
medical student. She recently stated, “When I learned about Brian I was just heartbroken. He
was such a good friend to me. I wouldn’t have made it through medical school without him!”
After transferring to the Wichita campus, he made more friends and again engaged in rock
climbing, camping and cycling. During his final year of medical school he spent time at several
other medical schools doing externships in urology and applying to and interviewing for urology
resident spots around the country. When match day arrived, he learned that he had matched at
the University of Iowa in Iowa city, Iowa.
Next, he moved to Iowa city Iowa to begin residency. As I am sure you all know, residency is
very difficult with long, grueling hours. Again, he found the ability to make many friendships. He
was especially proud that he was able to purchase a home. At the end of the second year, the
COVID-19 pandemic provided more challenges. He recently completed his third year of
residency. The third year at the University of Iowa is designed to be a research year. . One of
his professors described his research year in the following way:
"I wanted to reach out to let you know how much I’m going to miss your son.
We did research together this past year and whenever he wasn’t riding his bike (which wasn’t
very often!!), he was usually working on one of the many projects that he had taken on during
Brian’s research was and will be accepted for presentation and publication.
So yes, Brian did ride his bike a lot this past year. He traveled around the country participating
in many races and events involving both gravel and road cycling. He also purchased a Go Pro
camera to record his exploits. He was very proud of his completion of the Unbound Gravel 206
mile gravel race in Emporia, Kansas on June 5. He was proud to finish before sundown.
The family has received a great deal of love and outreach upon Brian’s passing. Here some of
the comments that have been made:
"Brian Barnes was one of the most talented urology residents with whom I have ever had the
privilege of working. Iowa won’t be the same without him."
"Brian was one of the most loving and caring persons I have ever met. It was an honor to have
him as a missionary companion."
"Brian will be missed tremendously. He was one of the first residents I got to work with as a
medical student. It was my first clinical rotation and he took the time to help explain everything
and let me out early (a rare treat on surgery). He had an unparalleled spark to him, and he will
never be forgotten."
"Brian is the one who got me to rock climb for the first time when we were in med school.
Always encouraging adventure and fun to be around.
Dr. Barnes was one of my physicians at The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. I was
deeply saddened when I learned of his passing. He was a great physician and an even greater
"I rotated at Iowa in the Urology Department in medical school and interviewed there as well. I
spent a lot of time with him during my month there and he was one of the reasons I loved that
program. He took me to lunch, let me borrow his microwave in his garage for the entire month
because my hotel didn’t have one, and taught me a lot about Urology!"
"I am so sorry for your loss. I accidently texted Brian’s phone in November of 2019. He replied
in February of 2020. We became sort of “pen pals” during the pandemic while I was super
locked down in Germany. He was very kind, warm, and thoughtful. I’m thankful to have texted
the wrong number."
Brian lived an eloquent life. His family and friends wish that he could have been more willing
and or able to share the heavy burden that he was carrying inside.
His parents have found solace in a scripture found in Isaiah 61:3;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for
mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called the trees of
righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
It is Brian’s family’s desire that beauty can rise from the ashes of despair--that we can learn
from Brian’s example how to better show caring, concern, and love to those around us. We
love you Brian.