Michael Brown, ’80, ’82, is well known for his titles of officer, doctor and mayor. From the outside looking in, it took some gumption for the visionary to pursue, and succeed in, three entirely different careers. He attributes his advantageous approach in life to growing up as an “Air Force brat.”
“New house, new friends, new school and new opportunities. I loved it,” Mike said of his childhood spent mainly in England and Japan.
He earned his Bachelor of Science in 1972 and his Master of Arts in 1974 from Baylor University. After graduating, Mike enlisted in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and was stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB), where he served as ICBM Missile Launch Control Officer, Commander and Instructor from 1975-78. Just one course short of earning his MBA, he enrolled in the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), fulfilling his lifelong dream to become a doctor.
“UND changed my life. The opportunity and the privilege to be in healthcare – it’s quite an honor. I think education is the greatest gift we can give our children.”
After getting his feet wet as a GFAFB Medical Corps OB/GYN, Mike practiced at Altru Health System in Grand Forks where he served as Chairman, Chief and Director of Altru’s OB/GYN Department during his 30-year career. He delivered more than 3,000 babies before retiring in 2019.
The late Dr. Rodney Clark, OB/GYN attending physician for third-year medical students, was Mike’s role model. It was Dr. Clark who taught him to remain calm in the delivery room, a trait Mike later became known for by patients and staff alike.
Mike returned the favor to SMHS and became an attending physician for medical residents. “It keeps you current, it keeps you informed, it keeps you relevant. And they challenge everything you do, so you better be paying attention,” he chuckled.
His leadership style was molded early on as an Eagle Scout, a rank earned in Okinawa, Japan. “That’s where I learned how to follow, then how to lead,” he explained. Known as a bridge builder, Mike’s “sunshine approach” as he says, has empowered those under him and built trust among colleagues and across sectors. He likens it to patient care: