Former Saints team physician Dr. Charles Brown dies

Dr. Charles Brown, the Saints team doctor from 1967-1999. (Photo Courtesy: Peoples Health)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WWL-TV) – Dr. Charles Brown, a noted physician who was also the team doctor for the New Orleans Saints from the club’s inception through the 1999 season, has died, the team announced Monday. He was 87.

Brown, known as “Charlie,” was the Saints’ team doctor from 1968 through 1999, earning the title as the longest-serving team physician in the National Football League.

“On behalf of the entire New Orleans Saints organization, we extend our deepest condolences to the family of Dr. Charles Brown,” the team said in a statement Monday.  “He proudly served as the Saints’ team doctor from the inception of the club through the 1999 season and provided impeccable care to the thousands of players that played for the team for over three decades. He had a wonderful manner about him and was the epitome of a true professional and we share in the sadness of his passing.”

In addition to his work with the Saints, Dr. Brown also consulted with the city’s NBA franchise in the 1970s, the New Orleans Jazz.  He was also ringside physician to World Heavyweight Champion boxer Riddick Bowe and was a consulting physician to many athletes and president of the NFL Physician Society. He served on the NFL Commissioner’s Advisory Committee on Drugs of Abuse and Alcohol as a full member until 2009, and then in 2014 at the age of 84, was invited to resume full membership of this important NFL committee.

Dr. Brown, a New Orleans native, is also internationally recognized for taking a strong stance against tobacco and cigarette smoking and leading efforts to establish smoke-free policies in the area. He was the principal spokesman for a coalition that successfully lobbied the state legislature for a 12-cents-per-pack addition to the tax on cigarettes. Proceeds from that tax underwrite tobacco-related research. Dr. Brown also helped push for passage of a bill banning smoking in businesses and restaurants across the state.

In 1982, he was appointed as the American Cancer Society representative to the Louisiana Cancer and Lung Trust Fund Board, which oversees the operation of the Louisiana Tumor Registry and funds research grants.  He also served as the board’s president. He remained the ACS representative to that Board for decades, and in that capacity, was instrumental in securing support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded statewide Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan and served on the Tobacco Control workgroup.

“Dr. Charlie Brown was a quiet force,” said Larry Hollier, MD, Chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans. “He had a knack for bringing out the best in people and the most genteel way of persuading them to help him achieve his goals. Through his tobacco cessation work, including driving the passage of Act 815, Louisiana’s first statewide comprehensive smoke-free indoor air act, Charlie leaves a legacy of health.”

Brown led the first statewide Tobacco Summit in 2004. The first annual award in tobacco prevention was presented there, and that award is the Charles L. Brown Award. When the tobacco-tax funded Tobacco-Free Living Program was created, Charlie served as Chairman of the statewide Steering Committee and Director of the Tobacco Program, reporting to the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium.

A 1953 graduate of Tulane University, Dr. Brown also earned his medical degree at Tulane, in 1955. He was board certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology, and he took care of patients in his private practice in New Orleans from 1961 through 1998.

Sports were what initially interested then-LSU Medical Center Chancellor Dr. Merv Trail in recruiting Brown for LSU. Trail appointed Brown as Professor of Clinical Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Professor of Medicine and Head of the Center for Sports Performance, Fitness and Wellness at LSU Medical Center (now Health Sciences Center) in 1998. It was then that Brown began devoting his talents more and more to health promotion, as well, and this took several paths.

He developed the “Wellness Place” for the faculty, students and staff of the Health Sciences Center and the Walk to Wellness that encourages physical activity and prevention of obesity, tobacco use and improved diet. Brown also led the efforts to establish the Jim Finks Endowed Chair in Health Promotion at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health. The chair, named for the former Saints general manager, provides research funding for students and graduate assistants and helps to support the development of new projects for junior faculty, paving the way for innovative translational research into the social, behavioral, environmental, biological and molecular factors related to metabolic and inflammatory disease and the impact of exercise and nutrition to this process in children and adolescents.

Brown was honored as a Peoples Health Champion in 2015, recognized by the Medicare HMO for his work in the community and his profession, well past the age of retirement.  At the time, he joked that he had actually “retired twice.”

In 2000, Brown was awarded the Jerry “Hawk” Rhea Award for outstanding NFL team physician by the
Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society.

Brown is survived by his wife, Harriet Avery Brown of New Orleans; his children: Hyland Brown Justice of Atlanta; Charles Lafayette Brown III, MD of Atlanta; Marilyn Richardson Brown of Covington; and Thomas Bolton Brown of New York. He is also survived by two stepchildren: Elizabeth Springgate Jayasuriya of Silver Spring, Maryland and Benjamin Franklin Springgate, M.D. of New Orleans, and 11 grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

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