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Bernice Brown, USC alumna and eye surgery pioneer

by Lee A. Jackman

Bernice Z. Brown

Bernice Z. Brown, a pioneer in the field of ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery and the first woman to be accepted as an ophthalmology resident at USC, died on Dec. 24, 2003 in Glendale.

At the time of her death, Brown was a clinical professor of ophthalmology and fellowship director of ophthalmic plastic, orbital and reconstructive surgery at the Doheny Eye Institute. She also was a member of the board of directors of the Doheny Eye Medical Group.

Brown’s long medical career began in the early 1960s when she attended medical school after she was married and gave birth to two young daughters. At the time, her career decision was so unconventional that when she applied for an ophthalmology residency, one medical school advised her to “go home and raise her children.”

She received her bachelor of arts degree from UCLA and her medical degree from USC. After conducting her internship and ophthalmology residencies at LAC+USC Medical Center, she served fellowships in ophthalmic plastic, orbital and reconstructive surgery at UC San Francisco and the Eye Foundation Hospital in Birmingham, Ala.

She was a member of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ASOPRS) and served as its president in 1990. She was also featured in a 1994 book about the history of the organization. Other professional memberships included the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Beard-Quickert Study Club, which she founded in 1975, California Association of Ophthalmology, California Medical Association, Doheny/USC Professional Association, and Women in Ophthalmology (founding member).

Brown served as editor of the Journal of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery from 1997-1999.

Awards and honors included Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Omega Alpha (medical school honorary society), Distinguished Alumnus Award (Doheny/USC Professional Asso-ciation), Senior Achievement Award (American Academy of Ophthalmology), the prestigious Lester T. Jones Anatomy Award of ASOPRS, and Alumnus of the Year of the USC School of Medicine

Recognized for her expertise in ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery, Brown was a frequent invited guest lecturer at professional organizations and meetings throughout the United States, and authored of numerous professional publications that spanned more than 30 years of her career.

An inveterate traveler, Brown carried her love of adventure into her work life. She was a key physician who helped run the Calexico Eye Clinic.

The clinic is next to the U.S.-Mexico border crossing in the Valley Orthopaedic Clinic.

Once a month, Brown and a number of volunteers—doctors and residents alike—would donate their time to care for those most in need of ophthalmic surgical care.

Her patients and colleagues have lauded Brown’s tireless work in Calexico.

She is survived by her husband Donald S. Mullins and daughters Trudy B. Brown and Melanie L. Brown.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, Jan. 18 at 2:30 p.m. at the Ritz Carlton Huntington Hotel, 1401 South Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena. Individuals who plan to attend the memorial service are asked to make reservations via email to trudybrown@ or by calling (323) 442-7101.

A memorial fund has been established at the Doheny Eye Institute and contributions will be used to establish the Bernice Z. Brown, M.D. Fellowship in Oculoplastics and Reconstructive Surgery.

Contributions should be made payable to the Doheny Eye Institute and mailed to the Doheny Eye Institute Development Office, 1450 San Pablo Street, DEI-3050, Los Angeles, CA 90033.

Bernice Brown, USC alumna and eye surgery pioneer

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