Service Friday for promising UK student, aspiring surgeon who died after jog

meads@herald-leader.comMay 16, 2013 

University of Kentucky student Jonathan Brigham hoped to become a cardiothoracic surgeon and travel the world giving surgeries to those in need. But a recently diagnosed heart condition killed him after an afternoon jog in Lexington, leaving hundreds of students and friends bereft.

Visitation for Brigham is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church of Elsmere in Elsmere.

Brigham passed out while jogging May 7 and was taken to UK Chandler Hospital, where he died Sunday.

He would have been a senior next fall; he was triple majoring in biology, chemistry and psychology with a minor in neuroscience. Brigham had a 4.0 grade-point average, said Fadyia Lowe, adviser and supervisor of the Student Health Advisory Council, of which Brigham was an officer.

"At 21 years, he lived a life more full than many who have lived for a long time," Lowe said.

Friendships were as important to Brigham as academics. The results were evident.

About 200 people came to a vigil in his honor Monday night. At one point, about 30 people waited outside Brigham's hospital room, several friends said. About 650 joined a Facebook group called "Prayers and updates for jbriggs."

Two weeks before being hospitalized, Brigham collapsed while jogging. Doctors told him he had Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, friends said.

The syndrome is generally not life-threatening and can be surgically corrected, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

Brigham postponed tests to gauge severity of his condition until after taking the medical school admission test May 25, longtime friend Hollie Wallace said. Another jog brought on the fatal attack.

Brigham had participated in medical mission trips and medical research, Wallace said.

"He never changed majors like a lot of people do," friend Christina Nguyen-Carter said. "He always wanted to be a doctor."

Brigham was valedictorian and prom king at Ryle High School in Northern Kentucky, and he brought his ambition and involvement to college, where he was active in several student organizations, said Roshan Palli, Brigham's pledge brother from Delta Sigma Phi.

In late April, Brigham asked Lowe to write him a recommendation letter for medical school.

"I didn't know where to begin," Lowe said. "His résumé was filled with page after page of the stuff he's done to serve other people."

Brigham remembered his friends' birthdays and sent Wallace pink roses on her birthday for the last three years, Wallace said.

"He never forgot; he said he would do it as long as we were friends," Wallace said. "I guess we thought that would be forever."

Wallace had just landed in Austria when she heard that Brigham was in the hospital; she immediately flew back to Lexington.

"He was the type of person, he would have done the same thing if something happened to me," Wallace said.

In lieu of flowers, Brigham's family asks for donations for a Jonathan Brigham Memorial Scholarship, which they intend to set up, Wallace said. Donations may be made at the visitation or mailed to 353 Wexford Drive, Walton, KY 41094.

The scholarship will likely be directed toward high school seniors planning to go into the medical field, Wallace said.

Morgan Eads: (859) 231-3335. Twitter: @heraldleader

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