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Airport Commissioner Dead at 70

Richard Brown was the founder of UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. He died from a stroke.

Airport Commissioner Dead at 70

Richard Brown, the chairman of Santa Monica's Airport Commission who was perhaps better known for his work in public health, particularly as the founder of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, died Sunday.

The center's director, Gerald F. Kominski, said in a statement Monday that Brown died from a stroke while speaking at a conference in Kentucky. He was 70. 

"Beloved husband, father, grandfather, teacher, mentor and public health visionary, Rick touched the lives of tens of thousands of Americans with his unique blend of warmth, intelligence, tenacity and belief that public health data and information could be a powerful force for good," Kominski said.

Until his death, Brown worked as a professor at the UCLA School Public of Health, simultaneously advocating for universal health care at state and national levels. His most recent research was focused on providing minorities and the disadvantaged better access to health services, according to his biography on the school's website.

Brown founded the Center for Health Policy Research in 1994. At that time, he also served as a full-time senior consultant to then President Bill Clinton's Task Force on National Health Care Reform. A champion of universal health care, he was a health policy adviser to two U.S. senators and to several candidates for president, including Barack Obama.

Brown testified to numerous committees in both houses of Congress and in the California Legislature and was a consultant for many private, state, federal, and international agencies. He was a past president of the American Public Health Association.

Brown was appointed to the city of Santa Monica Airport Commission in 2008. He was selected chairman in 2011.

"Although I come from a completely different academic background, it took me no time to figure out that he is an important figure in public health," a colleague, Sunghee Lee, wrote on an online message board at rememberingrick.com.

Other colleagues, students and friends are remembering Brown as a leader, tireless advocate and as thoughtful, insightful and generous. 

"I was honored to know you for 11 years and you have fundamentally shaped who I am and how I think. You have left an amazing legacy and impacted not only my life but the lives of many around you," wrote student Neetu Chawla. 

"Rick epitomized to me the way academics should work: To conduct top-notch research that can inform public policy in real and concrete ways," wrote colleague Rikki Baum. "I have tried to emulate Rick’s approach, including his generosity, warmth, and humor. I will miss him sorely, as will his legion of students and colleagues."

In a photo gallery, Brown is pictured hiking, traveling and lecturing. There's an image of a San Francisco Examiner article from May 1970 that shows Brown at an anti-war rally, carrying his daughter on his back as he delivers a speech to a capacity crowd at UC Berkeley's Harmon Gym. The photo's cutline identifies him as the chairman of the UC Strike Coordinating Committee. 

"This world has lost a kind, smiling soul who must be at peace, for he fought for justice," wrote Angie Wei. 

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