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After cancer surgeries, Ophelia Garmon-Brown feeling strong, plans to return to work early next year

Ophelia Garmon-Brown stands with Dee O’Dell, co-chairs of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force that is working to find ways to help the county’s poor overcome poverty. (2014 photo)
Ophelia Garmon-Brown stands with Dee O’Dell, co-chairs of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force that is working to find ways to help the county’s poor overcome poverty. (2014 photo)

Despite two cancer surgeries in November, Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, a Novant Health physician executive and co-chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force, says she hopes to return to work at the hospital and with the task force early next year.

“My healing has been amazing, and I feel the incredible grace of God on my life and the prayers of so many from the community,” Garmon-Brown said in a phone call with the Observer Thursday.

Garmon-Brown, who was also treated for cancer in 2012 and 2014, learned about her latest cancer diagnosis after she fell at her home on Nov. 6. At Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center emergency room, an MRI scan revealed a brain tumor. Over the next 10 days, she had surgery to remove that tumor and a second surgery to remove her right kidney, where doctors also discovered cancer.

“I look at myself in the mirror each day and say, ‘You had brain surgery. You had your right kidney removed,’ ” she said . “I just marvel. I’m overwhelmed, and I’m grateful.”

U.S. Bank executive Dee O’Dell, the task force co-chair, said he’s been uncertain if Garmon-Brown would be strong enough to return to her role. But after speaking with her Thursday, he said she’ll “return to our work early next year.” The task force’s report, on ways to boost economic mobility in the city and county, is expected to be made public in February, O’Dell said.

O’Dell said Garmon-Brown “sounds incredibly strong. She would want people to know that the doctors said the surgery went very smoothly, and they got all of the cancer.…She has such an incredible outlook even as she’s going through this.”

The opportunity task force formed in early 2015 in response to a 2014 study from Harvard University and UC-Berkeley which showed that poor children in Charlotte are less likely to escape poverty compared to their peers in America’s 50 largest cities.

Garmon-Brown, also an ordained Baptist minister, is well-known and widely respected. In June, she received the received the Sydnor Thompson Jr. Community Leader Award from MeckMin, a Charlotte interfaith group of about 100 congregations. The award is named for Thompson, the late attorney, judge and church leader who was a champion of interfaith relations at the N.C. Council of Churches.

In 2010, she was named the Observer’s Woman of the Year, and in 2012, she was named one of two family physicians of the year by the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians.

Karen Garloch: 704-358-5078, @kgarloch

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