Carolyn Brown of Juneau was inducted in the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame during a virtual ceremony Oct 18. She was the lone Juneau resident among the 11 inductees this year.
Brown worked as a physician in Alaska for over 50 years, with a focus on providing medical services to women from diverse backgrounds and those with limited resources.
She moved to Alaska in 1965 where she was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service. Her initial service included work for the Alaska Native Hospital and she realized how the needs of Alaska Native women were often ignored. She developed a new Health Aide training program to prepare Alaska Natives to provide basic wellness care in village communities. This work informed the direction of her career.
She went on to earn a Master of Public Health at the University of Hawai’i. Dr. Brown worked for the Anchorage Health Department in the early 1970s where she helped to develop low-cost and free health services. Her interest in supporting women’s healthcare led her to complete a residency in OB-GYN. Together with her husband, George Brown, she established a non-profit medical practice in the Mat-Su Valley in 1978 and was the first woman physician to practice at Palmer’s Valley Hospital. Their medical practice focused on prevention and wellness and included efforts to provide services for women who otherwise could not afford them.
In 1989 Carolyn Brown was appointed to a faculty position at the medical school at the University of Vermont. In 2001 she returned to Alaska to serve as a Deputy Commissioner of Public Health where she focused on public health initiatives for rural communities. All of these accomplishments are notable for any woman born in 1937 and even more for Dr. Brown who was the first member of her family to graduate from high school.