Loran Smith: The Leah Browns of our world

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, May 16, 2017

SCOTTSDALE, Az.  – The sustained heat of the desert had subsided at twilight when Dr. Leah Brown found a dinner spot on the edge of this resort town—named for General Winfield Scott, the U. S. Army’s longest serving general who oversaw the expulsion of the Cherokees from Georgia which is not a pretty story—where both the atmosphere and the conversation were cool, the latter so sobering that her guests felt privileged to be in her company.

She’s an orthopedic surgeon with credentials which continue to gather momentum.  Where she has been and what she has accomplished turns heads, but leaves one keenly aware that the best is yet to come.    In your mind’s eye you see her brilliant performances for the University of Georgia gymnastics team (a 14 time event All-American) and you reflect on her resume which speaks to medical excellence, altruism, character and service above self.

Her mother integrated the Charlotte, N. C., school system.   Ergo, she knows the thrill of victory; she knows the agony of deceit.  However, the cruel world out there has met its match when confronted by this remarkable and versatile UGA graduate.   She volunteered for two tours in the Middle East.  Let it be known that she didn’t have to go.   She doctored the wounded and dying, not just the victims, which often included many of her friends, but the perpetrators, the bad guys as well.   She wasn’t opposed to such humanitarian act, but it was, nonetheless, perplexing and graphically convincing that war makes no sense at all.   Her presence alone made Afghan women experience empowerment first hand, Leah quietly making a difference, which has always been her modus operandi.    A doctor makes their life better, their children are comforted and healed—and a woman makes it happen.  That sends a powerful message but in the Middle East that is often like a soft rain shower in the spring—evaporating almost as soon as it brings about its blessing.

With winsome good looks and an introspective personality which connects with others, Leah has always had a bent for altruism, love of people and a giving of self.   She is about loyalty among other feel good attributes.   She can’t do enough to support the Gymdogs, flying across the county to Athens on a moment’s notice when beckoned.  “We are family,” she explains her commitment, simply and succinctly—but emotionally elevated and rip-roaring proud.   I love my teammates.  I love the Gymdog program.  I love the University of Georgia.  She was a showcase student athlete and she is a showcase alumnus.

When you visit her resume, respect hurtles upwards.  When you revisit her resume, encores of hosannas ensue.   In conversation she is often measured by understatement as if what she is doing with her life can be done by others and that is no big deal if you don’t hide your talents under a bushel.   She is only doing what she expects of herself and what she was taught to do, growing up.

At Georgia she helped her team win two conference gymnastics titles and lay the foundation for all those forthcoming national championships.  She was the first gymnast in NCAA history to score a 10.0 in her initial collegiate meet and was the first Georgia freshman to win the SEC all-around title which came about in 1994.   She was graduated in 1998 with a degree in genetics.   She gained her medical school credentials at Ohio State and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

While at Georgia she claimed honors such as All-SEC Academic in gymnastics, membership in Leadership UGA and the Student Athletic Council and induction in the prestigious Omicron Delta Kappa, Blue Key and Palladia honor societies.

When she officially became Dr. Leah Brown, she then signed up for those two tours of duty in Afghanistan as an orthopedic surgeon with the U. S. Navy.  She was awarded the Bronze Star for humanitarian efforts treating women and children in Afghanistan.   Wherever Leah Brown goes, honor is sure to follow.    Makes you wonder why she wasn’t the first Navy Seal.    Her mantra became, “I don’t care to do the shooting and being shot at, but I will tend to your wounds.”

“It was a privilege to take care of them and to provide medical care to those deployed to Afghanistan,” she says.  “The military is an incredible entity.  It is an experience that I think everyone should have because of the comradery and teamwork.    I grew up in a family where a commitment to your community, your country, a commitment of service was always stressed.  I always thought serving my country would be a pretty cool thing.”

The Navy tradition dates back to a grandfather who experienced the discrimination era for African Americans during the World War II, but still wanted to serve his country.   Leah’s distinguished career has made up for that regrettable aforementioned circumstance.

She witnessed discriminatory custom in the Middle East in that Arab men would not shake hands with her (such touching of flesh is taboo), a reminder that wrong headedness in our world still prevails—sometimes in our own neighborhood or down the streeyt.   Any chance that we can reverse those negatives will only come from the leadership of the Leah Browns of our world.

Loran Smith is an athletic director at the University of Georgia.