Kim Barnett was one of the most recognizable figures at Baylor sporting events, but you wouldn’t know it if you met her. For three years, she traveled the country with the Baylor athletic teams, enjoyed running onto the field at Floyd Casey Stadium with the members of the Baylor Line and even experienced firsthand the excitement on the court when the Baylor women’s basketball team made its way the national championship.
But Barnett’s face isn’t in any of the photos because she was covered in fur and pumping up the crowds as Bruiser the Bear. “There is nothing like the rush of running out with the Baylor Line before a game,” Barnett told reporter Cat Smith with the Baylor Lariat in 2006. “You can feel the excitement from the cheerleaders, the players and the fans and it’s an amazing feeling.”
The hard work and lessons learned during her time at Baylor has served Barnett well over the years. She attended graduate school at University of Texas-Pan American to become a physician assistant, went on medical mission trips around the world and began coordinating her own mission trips to Costa Rica. On top of that, she’s married to Ryan Barnett, pastor at First United Methodist Church, and they have an energetic 3-year-old son, Davis. To manage it all, she said she focuses on self-care so that she brings her best to each one of her roles.
WACOAN: You moved to Waco last summer, but you graduated from Baylor. What was it like coming back after so many years?
Barnett: I did. I graduated from Baylor in 2007 with really no intentions of coming back. Like it just wasn’t on my radar. Then Ryan got the opportunity to come here, and I think we thought about it for all of 10 seconds. We knew it would be a great fit for our family, and it’s a lot of fun being back. Waco is so much cooler than it was 12 years ago.
WACOAN: It really has come a long way. What is your favorite part of being back?
Barnett: I like all the Baylor sporting events. I was actually Bruiser the Bear for three years when I was in college, and so I used to be really heavily involved and all. I got to travel the country with all the different sports teams. So, it’s fun to come back and kind of get back into that.
WACOAN: How fun. And what made you want to wear the suit?
Barnett: I knew there was an opening on the team, and I just thought, ‘Well I can do that, and it sounds fun.’ So I just kept emailing the cheerleading coach. I think I beat her down with persistence, and she was finally like, ‘OK, for your tryout, you’re going to be doing a women’s televised basketball game. Get to know all the rules and let’s see what you got.’ So I did. I was a mascot in high school, but it was totally different in college.
WACOAN: So that persistence that it took to make it to the tryouts and all the hard work that came after, do you think it has served you well in other aspects of your life?
Barnett: Sure, I’d say for the Costa Rica mission trip. That is something that I started two years ago. It’s kind of been my vision, and I’ve been working to make that happen every year. It’s a lot of work and trying to get people to buy into this kind of crazy idea that you know — or you hope — is really going to work out, and you’re basically begging strangers to buy into it and experience it and make it work with you, and it’s been a lot of fun
WACOAN: Tell me more about your mission trip. What do you do there?
Barnett: This year out of Waco I took an OB-GYN and several nurses, and I had two doctors out of Corpus Christi. We went to a remote, jungle area of Costa Rica. We had an ultrasound machine, and we were able to provide prenatal care. We did something like 180 Pap smears, a lot of well-child checks. I think we offered like $55,000 worth of health care and supplies in a five-day period. It was great.
WACOAN: What led you to coordinate this?
Barnett: I’ve been going on medical missions since college. I’ve been on a couple of surgical missions down in Mexico. I spent three months in Rwanda with my husband in our first year of marriage. I just got to experience what health care around the world looks like and appreciate what the needs are. So that’s become a passion for me to do what I can there.
WACOAN: What are your plans for the future of these trips?
Barnett: I’ve taken two teams. This is my second year, and I have had a couple of other churches fall in behind me so we’re trying to make it where we can get church teams together to try to make this more regular.
The problem is they don’t have any type of preventative health care in Costa Rica. It’s very socialized so preventative medicine doesn’t exist. But here in the U.S., we know that a lot of scary things can be prevented if you get routine screenings. So we go down there and do that kind of thing, mostly with women’s health and children, but we will see anybody who walks through the door.
WACOAN: Does that mean they don’t see the doctor for annual checkups?
Barnett: There’s just not enough physicians so you don’t go to the doctor if you’re well. Then if you do have a problem, it can be 18 months to two years until you can get an X-ray or ultrasound. So that’s why we took an ultrasound machine down there, and we got to let pregnant women see their babies on the ultrasound for the first time, which is awesome because that’s not a service that is offered down there.
WACOAN: What made you choose the medical profession, and how did you know you wanted to be a physician assistant?
Barnett: For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a doctor. I thought that medicine and science were just so cool all through school.
I was pre-med at Baylor for the first two years and then my dad said something like, ‘What about PA?’ and I had never heard of it before, so I started looking into it, and it sounded great. I can do about 80 percent of what a doctor can do with less than half the schooling. I don’t mind working for somebody. I don’t mind having someone smarter than me have my back either. I’m glad that I went the PA route instead of medical school.
As a PA, you can kind of write your own ticket. If you want to work full time plus, you can. If you want to work one day a week, you can.
WACOAN: What’s your favorite aspect of the job?
Barnett: One thing I really like is that there is lateral movement across specialties of medicine. PA’s are trained so that we can practice any type of medicine. We can do clinical or surgical, see kids and see adults, and you can deliver babies. And I like that because I love learning. I love it the more I can learn, and a big part of the job is research and reading and staying on top of current literature
WACOAN: With the mission trips, work, family and church, how do you manage your busy schedule?
Barnett: Before I had my son, it was not uncommon for me to work 60-70 hours a week, and I thought I could keep doing it. Then, the second they laid that baby on my chest, it changed. I think I was still in the hospital when I called my boss and told him that I was going to have to cut back. I cut down to about half-time for several years.
Just since moving to Waco last July, I went back to full-time. I don’t want to work 60- or 70-hour work weeks, but I know that I’m a better mom if I can practice my skill set and use the gifts that I have independently. So that way when I get back to family life, I can really focus on that.
WACOAN: What does keeping balance mean to you? Is there anything you struggle with?
Barnett: Mommy guilt is a real thing. Going back to work at all and then deciding to go full time. I want to work and do my job because I love it so much. And I want to be at home with my kid because I love him so much. So, I mean there is definitely guilt associated with that, but it’s the best thing for my child to go to school where he can learn things from professionals that I might not be able to teach him. And it’s just the best thing for our relationship in general and the overall happiness in the family.
Ryan and I also love to travel, and we know that for our relationship, it’s best to get away from time to time just the two of us. Which, again, means not being with Davis, but we must balance all of that, so we can come back regrouped and refreshed. Plus, I think the grandparents really love the opportunity to hang out with him.
WACOAN: Are the grandparents nearby?
Barnett: Yeah, my dad still lives in McAllen, but he’s retired so he’s up here very often. He and Davis are best buds.
WACOAN: How did you and your husband meet?
Barnett: I was maybe a senior in college when we first met, but I didn’t remember him. A mutual friend reconnected us a few years later. It’s kind of a funny story because he remembered me and I didn’t remember him, but it stuck the second time.
WACOAN: And he is the pastor at First United Methodist Church Waco? How is life different for you as the wife of a pastor as opposed to say other women you know?
Barnett: We do kind of live in a fishbowl. Everyone’s always interested in our lives, which is OK. We really try to show people that we’re normal people too. And Ryan is really good about letting people know up front that I have my own calling and my own job and my own life outside of his and the church. He’s always been great about being upfront and setting the expectations where they need to be, so that helps a lot.
I’m not the traditional pastor’s wife you think about, but all the things I do at the church are things that I would be doing even if I wasn’t married to him.
WACOAN: And your son Davis is 3. What is he like?
Barnett: Oh he rocks our world in the best possible way. My house is full of dump trucks and diggers. He’s really into gears and trains and baseball. He’s smart, and he’s tenacious, and he keeps us on our toes for sure. He doesn’t look anything like me, but I swear he’s mine.
WACOAN: What do you guys like to do on the weekends?
Barnett: This is where my husband is great. He takes Davis every Saturday morning for the morning so that I can have that time for myself. I usually like to go on a long run to get out and just clear my mind from the week. Then I usually meet up with them, and we love to go to the zoo. We absolutely love Cameron Park Zoo, and Davis loves the Mayborn Museum. We live on a cul-de-sac and it seems like all our neighbors have little boys so we just kind of hang out and play T-ball and soccer.
WACOAN: Do you have a particular parenting philosophy that you subscribe to?
Barnett: I have more of a scientific mind so I’m going to read everything that’s out there and then I’m going to sit back and choose which one I think is going to work best for my son.
So far, the only specific thing is we sleep-trained him when he was young because, once again, I will be a better mommy if I get my sleep at night. I know not everybody agrees with that, but it became clear that with my son’s tenacity and his strong personality, it was healthier for him too. We’re pretty structured, and all the things in our life function well with a lot of structure.
WACOAN: Finally, do have any advice or words of wisdom for other moms out there?
Barnett: You really have to figure out what energizes you to be the best mom you can be. If working full time makes you better, then do that. But if you want to be at home and that makes you better, it’s your balance and not what anyone else thinks it should be. You have to manage your own sanity.