The call to serve our country is strong across UAMS, with many veterans, active duty, Guard and Reserve members of the Armed Forces on our team. For Brian Barnett, MHSA, Associate Chair in the departments of Family and Preventive Medicine and Radiation Oncology, it meant never giving up hope.
As a member of the 404th Civil Affairs Unit of the U.S. Army Reserve, Brian was excited and grateful to receive his first overseas deployment, to Djibouti City in the Horn of Africa, early last fall.
Unfortunately, not long into his stateside training for the mobilization, he suffered a tibia/fibula fracture in his right leg during a Midnight parachute jump. The injury required surgery and physical therapy, but Brian was determined. He made it to Fort Bliss, Texas, for mobilization on Dec. 5, 2020, and caught up with his unit in in Dijibouti in early January. He completed the deployment and returned to UAMS in September.
But Brian’s determination to serve our country didn’t start there. “My father and grandfather served, and it was the only thing I considered through high school,” Brian explained. “I was planning on attending the Air Force Academy, but was disqualified because I only have one kidney. My father was a combat engineer in Vietnam and dealt with Agent Orange. Birth defects such as I had were a common side effect of the exposure.”
Instead, the Texas native made his way to the University of Central Arkansas to play football and study physical therapy. He later obtained a Master’s in Health Services Administration and moved into administrative leadership roles such as those he has held at UAMS for over 15 years.
“That desire to serve in the military never went away, though, and I attempted to join again when the military recruiters came to UCA before graduation,” Brian said. “Unfortunately, I still only had one kidney and was told I didn’t qualify. “ I attempted to join again in 2001 after the Trade Center attacks and even wrote a letter to my Congressman and the Secretary of the Army. I still only had one kidney, though, and the recruiter dismissed me again.”
“It took another 10 years, but I finally had to try again. Miraculously, the recruiter I randomly ended up with was married to a UAMS nephrologist. This recruiter took me seriously, and his wife assisted in obtaining extra tests. So on my fourth attempt over 20 years, I was finally approved for a medical waiver and was accepted into the Army Medical Department. I later transferred to Civil Affairs.”
The College of Medicine salutes Brian and all dedicated veterans and service members. Thank you for answering the call to serve.