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Fulfilling a Childhood Dream and Making the Most Impact: An Interview with Dr. David Brown

5 minute read

Realizing a childhood dream

Dr. Brown knew he wanted to become a doctor since he was six years old. His father, a community hospital doctor, knew firsthand the challenging journey ahead for his son, and told him as much just as he was starting high school. His father stressed that he needed to work hard through high school and college and not become distracted from these goals to attend a good medical school. But it was the final piece of advice that left the biggest impact. He said: “If you do really well in medical school, maybe you can train at Mass General. It's simply the best.” His father had no affiliation with Mass General, but it spoke volumes to the future Dr. Brown that his father held it in such high regard.

After graduating with an MD from Columbia University, he matched in internal medicine at Mass General and began his formal medical training. During his training, Dr. Brown learned firsthand from some of Mass General’s leading doctors in their fields, among them Morton Swartz, MD (former chief of infectious diseases), Hasan Bazari, MD (former internal medicine program director), Lloyd Axelrod, MD (former chief of endocrinology), and Michael Seiden, MD, PhD (chief resident at the time). Beyond their medical expertise, the approach to teaching and prioritizing the well-being of patients that these doctors practiced left a strong impression on Dr. Brown. These mentors had such an impact on him that he chose to continue to pursue academic medicine once his residency concluded. He has now been practicing at Mass General for more than 30 years, caring for patients and helping to train and inspire the next generations of doctors.

Making an impact in emergency medicine

Though Dr. Brown trained in internal medicine, the work he found most fulfilling was in the emergency room treating critically ill patients.

“I liked the emergency department environment where you had to make decisions under conditions of uncertainty and be humble because you will not always get it exactly right the first time,” he says. “You have to adjust and recalibrate on the fly.”

At that time, there was no dedicated program to train residents in emergency medicine at Mass General Brigham hospitals. So, Dr. Brown helped establish the first Harvard-affiliated emergency medicine residency, which included Brigham and Women’s Hospital and other Boston-area hospitals, designed to leverage each hospital’s core strengths to provide residents with well-rounded emergency medicine training. Though the program name has changed, the foundation it established is still used to train residents today.

Dr. Brown originally planned to stay at Mass General for only his residency, but then he saw the passion of the talented and dedicated practitioners in every medical specialty, from nurses, to residents, to department leaders. Combined with his residency experience, he realized the impact he could have by staying at Mass General and Mass General Brigham.

“That mission has driven me throughout my career,” he says, “by finding ways to make the most impact while keeping the patient at the center.”

Dr. Brown also notes: once you train at Mass General Brigham, “you are part of the family forever.” He says he is eager to have more engagement and involvement from alumni to further innovate in the spaces of patient care research and medical education.

Message from David Brown, MD

Dr. David Brown, president of Massachusetts General Hospital and executive vice president of Mass General Brigham, shares a welcome message to alumni.

Mass General Brigham Alumni Association

Visit the Mass General Brigham Alumni Association page to learn more about how alumni can stay engaged with their programs and the Mass General Brigham organization.