Harry S. Brown, MD, FACS, Founder, 1930 – 2017


Dr. Brown founded SEE International over 40 years ago in response to the overwhelming number of people worldwide living with curable blindness. Since then, he has engendered a worldwide interest in his life’s work. After graduating from the University of Missouri, he served as a line officer in the US Navy before entering George Washington University Medical School, graduating in 1959. Dr. Brown interned at the US Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton, CA, and went on to complete the residency program at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA.

He then embarked on a year-long whirlwind trip around the world with his wife, four children, and mother, working as a visiting ophthalmologist in Johannesburg, South Africa; North Gujarat, India; and Kabul, Afghanistan. It was on this journey that Dr. Brown realized how badly the developing world needed an organization of volunteer doctors to perform free sight-restoring surgeries for people who lacked resources or access to quality care. He subsequently moved to Santa Barbara in 1971, where he founded SEE International and began a private practice.

Dr. Brown and his colleagues developed an efficient mobile eye surgery system of intensive, short-term surgical clinics for remote, medically underserved populations worldwide, in order to address their lack of access to trained clinical eye care.

For a lifetime of humanitarian achievement, Dr. Brown has received the International President Award, Lions International; a tribute by the US House of Representatives; the Honor Award, American Academy of Ophthalmology; Lifetime Achievement Award, Santa Barbara News-Press; Community Service Award, George Washington University Alumni Association; Outstanding Humanitarian Award, American Academy of Ophthalmology; Hampton Roy Medal, World Eye Foundation; Leslie Dana Gold Medal Award, St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired; the Outstanding Achievements in the Prevention of Blindness and Services to those Who are Blind; and the Paul Harris Award, Rotary International.

In October 2014, Dr. Brown was honored with the American College of Surgeons/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian and Volunteerism Award, given “in recognition of those surgeons who have dedicated a substantial portion of their career to ensuring the provision of surgical care to underserved populations without expectation of commensurate reimbursement.”

Dr. Brown passed away on April 16, 2017. He was a man of exceptional vision and compassion who dedicated much of his life to restoring sight to those who would otherwise be forced to live in darkness only because they lacked resources or access to care. Thanks to his humanitarian spirit and relentless passion, SEE has restored sight to nearly half-a-million people around the world, and changed the lives of countless family members, friends, and other caretakers. He will be remembered fondly and with gratitude.

Laughing Heart Guide: Conversations with Harry S. Brown


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