Nicholas Schumacher Briese
March 17, 1984 – July 9, 2020
A physician deeply dedicated to serving others, Nicholas died of leukemia on Thursday, July 9, at his home in Minneapolis at age 36.
Born March 17, 1984, in Appleton, WI, to John and Cathy Briese, Nick grew up in Rochester, MN. Nick was a curious and bright kid who liked to explore new ideas and places. His boundless energy and kind nature meant that he made friends easily, and he enjoyed many adventures with childhood friends. Whether setting up camp with his fellow Boy Scouts, bonding with his soccer teammates or making mischief with his chemistry buddies, Nick had a gift for putting people at ease and making them feel a part of things.
Nick graduated from Lourdes High School in 2002, continuing his studies at Saint John’s University, where he met his future wife, Nicole Huebner. The two enjoyed an ongoing friendship, playing on intramural sports teams together, exploring the woods around St. John’s and exchanging a dry humor that Nicole understood approximately 75 percent of the time.
After graduating Summa Cum Laude from St. John’s in 2006, Nick spent a year with the Benedictine Volunteer Corps at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, NJ. In addition to teaching high school chemistry, Nick also served as a coach for the water polo team, a particularly interesting assignment considering his lackluster swimming skills.
While in Newark, Nick stayed in touch with Nicole, resuming their friendship when he returned to Minnesota. In 2008, they finally had their first real date and were together from that day on. They married on June 30, 2012, and built their life together in Minneapolis, filling their years together with travel, outdoor adventures, two rescue dogs, house projects (Nick as self-trained carpenter, electrician and plumber; Nicole as designer) and time spent with their people over homemade meals and backyard campfires and cozy nights in.
Nick’s soaring intelligence and matchless wit were complemented by his humility and thoughtfulness, and he eventually chose to pursue medicine in order to put his skills to what he deemed was their best use: serving others. Nick graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 2011 and completed his residency at Hennepin County Medical Center, specializing in internal medicine and serving as chief resident from 2014 to 2015. From his time at HCMC, Nick knew for certain his calling was to be a physician, and it was there that he chose to make his career, joining the Hennepin faculty in the Division of Hospital Medicine in 2015. Nick was committed to his patients, his colleagues and his hospital, and served them all with integrity, compassion and a calm and humble leadership rooted in shared respect.
In addition to his work as a hospitalist, Nick loved to teach – and his students loved him. Described as genuine, caring, gentle and patient, Nick strove to connect with his students and empower them to become better physicians. His ongoing commitment to teaching resulted in his being awarded the Exceptional Affiliate Faculty Teaching Award in 2019.
On December 25, 2018, Nick was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with AML, an aggressive type of leukemia. After more than 18 months of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, clinical trials, repeated remission and relapse, and many ups, downs and in-betweens, the leukemia proved to be untreatable. Through it all, Nick remained steadfastly Nick, with an unparalleled goodness, strength and grace. Through it all, his commitment to and joy for serving others never faltered; rather, it was one of the driving forces fueling his desire to heal, so that he could return to the roles and relationships that meant so much to him.
Nick believed that the purpose of life was, simply, to love. And by that measure, it can be said with certainty that his was a life well-lived. The love Nick had for everyone in his life – as a husband, son, brother, nephew, uncle, friend, colleague, teacher, physician – shone brightly, and he infused all of his relationships with generosity, kindness and the utmost care. Nick laughed easily and was quick with a wry smirk and witty remark. He had a brilliant mind, but wasn’t afraid to be silly and embrace his inner kid, Star Trek nerd and all. He brought people together and made them feel important and accepted for exactly who they were. He didn’t shy away from the hard stuff in life, and instead faced it with a dauntless determination – and sometimes a light saber. Nick’s hope in death was that his spirit might explore the vast beauty of our universe. And so we will look for him there, amongst the stars and the planets and the galaxies, and remember that our world shines brighter because Nick was in it.
Nick is survived by his wife, Nicole Huebner Briese; parents John (Julia) Briese and Cathy Briese; grandparents Don and Judy Hasti; siblings Joe (Carrie) Briese, Tom (Erica Levine) Briese, Angie (Mat) Nolan, Katie (Tony) Sikkink, and Isabel Archer; nieces Claire and Ella Briese and Addie Nolan; nephews Elliott, Henry, George and Arthur Sikkink; parents in-law Glenn and Kim Huebner; grandmother-in-law Marlys Brose; sister-in-law Ashley Huebner; doggos Maddie and Raleigh; and countless relatives, friends and colleagues whom Nick loved dearly.
To ensure the health and safety of those who wish to remember Nick and celebrate his life and legacy, a final farewell for Nick will be postponed until next summer. caringbridge.org/visit/nickbriese (Published in the Star Tribune on August 16, 2020)