Charlotte physician, community leader Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown dies after fighting brain tumor, kidney cancer

She used her cancer diagnosis to become an advocate for those fighting the disease
Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 7:29 AM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Charlotte physician and community leader has died after battling a brain tumor and kidney cancer, according to Novant Health.

Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown used her cancer diagnosis to become an advocate for those fighting the disease.

She thought her journey could help others, so she wrote a book with stories of herself and other cancer survivors.

Her book was called “The Unexpected Gift: Profiles in Courage from Cancer Survivorship

Garmon-Brown also co-chaired the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force.

The task force was formed in early 2015 in response to a 2014 study that found Charlotte was dead last among the 50 biggest cities in the U.S. for economic mobility – the ability to improve one’s economic status. The task force’s goal: Nothing short of breaking the cycle of generational poverty.

Garmon-Brown was also a trustee emerita for the Queens University Board of Trustees from 2011-2019.

Novant Health sent this statement to WBTV on the death of Garmon-Brown:

“Yesterday, a dearly beloved member of the Novant Health family, Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, passed away after a long and valiant battle with cancer.

“She is mourned by a community that she left better than she found it. Dr. Garmon-Brown was a voice for the voiceless and a tireless advocate for what is just and right.”

“She is mourned by patients who are healthier and stronger because of her work. Dr. Garmon-Brown was first and foremost a healer, and a trailblazer, as the first female, African American family medicine resident in Charlotte.”

“She is mourned by our team members who benefited from her wise leadership. Dr. Garmon-Brown held several leadership roles with Novant Health, including medical director of urgent care clinics in the Charlotte area and senior vice president of physician services. Dr. Garmon-Brown has also served as the medical director of the Charlotte Community Health Clinic, a free clinic for the uninsured and underinsured. She led our Remarkable You initiative that brought lifesaving health screenings to thousands of people. Her career with us culminated in her position as chief community health and wellness executive.”

“A minister, a matriarch, and a friend. Our hearts are with her family and all of those who were touched and impacted by her passion, good humor, wisdom, empathy and love. We are grieving with you.”

Novant Health released a list of Dr. Garmon-Brown’s accomplishments:

Dr. Garmon-Brown received a bachelor’s degree in biology from North Carolina Central University and went on to earn a medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She began her internship and residency in family medicine in Charlotte where she was the first black female resident in family medicine. Her medical service in Mecklenburg County also led her to become the first African-American elected as president of Mecklenburg County Medical Society.

In addition to her role as senior vice president of community wellness and education at Novant Health, Dr. Garmon-Brown is the medical director emeritus and co-founder of Charlotte Community Health Clinic, the first free clinic in Mecklenburg County to be awarded the designation of becoming a Federally Qualified Health Clinic.

She was also co-chair of the One Charlotte Health Alliance, a partnership which is the first of its kind to address disparities to build a stronger Charlotte.

Dr. Garmon-Brown also earned her master’s in divinity from the Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education. She believes that true wellness includes spiritual health, and that when people reduce stress and create more balanced lives, they decrease their risks for life-threatening diseases, according to a press release from Novant Health.

Beyond helping those across the Charlotte region, for more than a decade Dr. Garmon-Brown has traveled the globe as a medical missionary, delivering free care to those in need. In Kenya, she set up a mini-health clinic, and has also been a missionary in Guyana and Jamaica.

In January of 2014, Dr. Garmon-Brown lead Novant Health’s communitywide wellness initiative aimed at creating an epidemic of wellness, particularly focusing on prediabetes, obesity and high blood pressure – empowering people to take strides toward living healthier, happier and longer lives.

Dr. Garmon-Brown was an inspirational advocate for wellness and has been recognized many times for her dedication and commitment to serving the community. Among these honors, to

In addition to her various professional positions, she also has a role with each of the following organizations:

  • Board of Directors of Mecklenburg County Medical Society
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Investment Study Group
  • 2010 President of Mecklenburg County Medical Society
  • Member of Charlotte Medical Society

Queens University released the following statement:

Queens University of Charlotte is deeply saddened by the passing of a beloved advocate, advisor and friend. Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, a trustee emerita who served on the Queens University of Charlotte Board of Trustees from 2011-2019, passed away on Wednesday. Her tireless work as a physician, minister, volunteer, advocate and community leader embodied the spirit of the Queens mantra, ‘not to be served, but to serve.’

Dr. Garmon-Brown has been recognized with numerous awards for her extraordinary accomplishments and contributions to the most marginalized citizens in the Charlotte region and around the globe, including the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest honor a civilian can receive in North Carolina. During the university’s 2018 commencement ceremony, she was honored with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, presented to individuals who exemplify excellence of character and humanitarian service.

We are incredibly grateful for the years of service and the valuable leadership she provided as an esteemed member of our board. Her passion and advocacy will live on at Queens as we continue to celebrate the enduring impact she has had on our entire community.

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