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Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown

Location: Washington, DC

DR. DOROTHY LAVINIA BROWN -- (Extensions of Remarks - June 18, 2004)


Mr. COOPER. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the remarkable life of Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown, of Nashville, Tennessee. A pioneering force in both medicine and politics, Dr. Brown rose from humble beginnings to become one of our nation's most inspiring figures. Our country lost a great leader when Dr. Brown passed away on Sunday, June 13, at the age of 90.

Dr. Brown led a life of setting "firsts" and was not only the first African-American woman surgeon in the South but the first African-American woman to serve in the Tennessee State legislature. She was also the first woman to head a surgical unit of a major hospital, and the first African-American woman to be made a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Her courage, perseverance and vision are what made her so admirable. Soon after her birth, her mother placed her in an orphanage, where she lived until her mother reclaimed her at the age of 13. By then, she was already determined to become a surgeon, and she pursued that dream despite the difficult circumstances in which she was raised. She was abused by her mother, and at age 14 was pulled out of school to work as a domestic.

Describing her perseverance, Dr. Brown said, "I tried to be not hard, but durable." And indeed she did not give up. She eventually won a 4-year scholarship to Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, from which she graduated in 1941, ranked second in her class. Thereafter, she enrolled at Meharry Medical College, where she also served a 5-year residency in surgery and overcame the doubts of those who said that a woman could not withstand the rigors of surgery. She went on to pursue a brilliant career, and from 1957 to 1983, Dr. Brown served as chief of surgery at Nashville's Riverside Hospital, clinical professor of surgery at Meharry and educational director for the Riverside-Meharry Clinical Rotation Program.

Dr. Brown was not only a brilliant surgeon but a compassionate one. When a young unmarried patient implored Dr. Brown to adopt her newborn daughter, she agreed. And in 1956, Dr. Brown became the first single adoptive parent in Tennessee.

Dr. Dorothy Brown stands as a remarkable visionary and role model, not only for women in medicine, but for all Americans. Her relentless perseverance and indomitable spirit opened doors for her and others to follow. She once said that she wanted to be remembered "not because I have done so much, but to say to young people that it can be done."
On behalf of the fifth district of Tennessee as well as my colleagues in Congress, I send my deepest condolences to Dr. Brown's family and loved ones.


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