CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A community leader, advocate for wellness, and physician in Charlotte died Wednesday after battling a brain tumor and kidney cancer, according to Novant Health.
Novant Health issued the following statement on the passing of Dr. Ophelia 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.”
The physician was treated for cancer in 2012, 2014, and again in 2016.
In 2016 is when she learned that she a brain tumor and cancer in her right kidney. While receiving treatment, Garmon-Brown set out to share her story and those of survivors through a book named “The Unexpected Gift: Profiles in Courage from Cancer Survivorship“. The book tells the stories of 20 other cancer survivors.
“There’s something within us that cannot be quantified, that cannot be easily measured, and that is an individual’s spirit,” Garmon-Brown states with her book. “Cancer itself is not a gift, but how you deal with it can turn into one.”
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.
Along with multiple accolades in 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.
Funeral arrangements are still being finalized for the physician.