A Heart for Hawkeyes: Donald Brown, MD

Date: Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Donald Brown (62BA, 65MS, 66MD) considers himself fortunate.

Brown—who recently began his 50th and final year as a cardiologist, educator, and researcher at the University of Iowa—has found success in every chapter of his esteemed career. The Manchester, Iowa, native is grateful to have learned from and worked with many leaders in the medicine.

“There have been so many individuals who have made a personal and professional difference in my life, while also making a major impact on the lives of so many patients and medical students,” says Brown.

Enjoying math and science as a high schooler, Brown worked at a local pharmacy before enrolling as a pre-med major at the University of Iowa. He was inspired by John Tyrrell (47BA, 50MD), who was a physician and scout leader in his hometown. While he wasn’t exactly sure where a pre-med major would take him, by the time Brown “got off the academic treadmill,” as he says, he was a cardiologist.

Donald Brown, MD, stands at a classroom podium
Donald Brown, MD

Along the way, Brown interacted with fantastic faculty members. During his sophomore year—which involved two semesters each of medical curriculum and working as a teaching assistant in the UI Department of Anatomy—he was mentored and became friends Paul Seebohm, MD, and Adel Afifi, MD (64R, 65MS), who specifically taught him about anatomy and global perspectives.

“I did my first rotation in internal medicine, and again, I had some wonderful mentors,” says Brown. “One of them, Donald Warkentin, MD (62R), a faculty member in cardiology, suggested that I take an elective in the cardiology clinic during my senior year. I really got to know the ins and outs of cardiology and met two other important mentors—Lewis January, MD, and Ernest Theilen (47MD, 51R). Cardiology just seemed to make sense for me.”

After completing his residency and fellowship in Rochester, New York—as well as serving in the United States Navy at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute and Research Lab—Brown came back to Iowa City in 1973 as a tenure-track faculty member. Under the leadership and mentorship of Francois Abboud, MD, (61R), Brown has had the opportunity to change medicine and lives.

He’s performed research in digoxin pharmacology and prehospital cardiac care, certified advanced cardiac life support instructors throughout the Hawkeye State, taught and directed an Introduction to Clinical Medicine course for 25 years with the support of Sandra Schuldt, mentored countless medical and physician assistant students, and provided clinical care for his patients.

I’ve been able to do things that have given me a sense of fulfillment, and at the top of the list is contributing to medical education here at Iowa.

For Brown, though, medical education is a passion.

That’s why he and his wife, Judy Barkalow, have supported medical and physician assistant student education efforts through their charitable giving. They’ve left a bequest in their will to support the Dr. Donald D. Brown and Judy K. Barkalow Faculty Support Fund in Cardiology, which will provide financial support for cardiovascular faculty extensively involved in student medical education in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

“Judy and I were planning for the future, and we both wanted to give back in a way that was positive for the University of Iowa and for the people of Iowa,” says Brown, who will officially retire in June 2023. “We decided to set up a fund that would support one or two individuals who focus on administering, directing, and delivering medical and physician assistant student education. I’ve been able to do things that have given me a sense of fulfillment, and at the top of the list is contributing to medical education here at Iowa. How could I not feel this way, given that I have been so lucky to have benefited from such wonderful role models and friends along the way.”


Learn how you can make a difference at the University of Iowa by contacting Sarah Russett, associate vice president for health sciences development at the University of Iowa Center for Advancement, at sarah.russett@foriowa.org or 319-467-3787.