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HEADED TO HAITI: Jonesborough doctor will take medical mission in April

When Dr. Steve Brown was 10 years old, two life-changing events occurred that helped him discover his “heart for medicine.”
Brown’s father, a Sullivan County Deputy, was shot while responding to a domestic violence call. He survived, but spend three months in the hospital recovering.
At the same time Brown’s father was recuperating, Brown’s church showed Beyond the Gates of Splendor. It was a documentary that told the story of Operation Auca, an attempt to contact the Huaorani tribe of Ecuador in which five American missionaries, including a man named Nate Saint, were killed by the tribesmen.
In later years, the tribe converted to Christianity, and the son of Nate Saint, Steve Saint, became close with one of the tribesmen who had killed his father. Saint wrote a book, End of the Spear, which later became a movie, about the tribe’s conversion and his relationship with his father’s murderers.
Brown, who later met Saint, said these events helped him realize, even as a young child, that he was drawn to both medicine and missionary work, both of which play important roles in his life today.
Recently, Brown helped to open Jonesborough Community Care along with Jim Montag Jr. The aim of the clinic is to serve the area between Johnson City and Greeneville.
Brown began taking medical missions about eight years ago, traveling to Africa in the summers to treat patients there.
Last April, Brown traveled to Haiti with his church, Grace Church in Kingsport, and he intends to go back next month.
“The church I attend has a real heart for Haiti,” he said. “I want to support my church.”
Haiti, which already was one of the poorest nations in the world, suffered a devastating earthquake in January, which killed hundreds of thousands and left millions homeless.
But even before the earthquake, medical care in Haiti was hard to come by, with some residents living far up in the mountains, inaccessible by vehicle,
And if there is a doctor in the area, Haitians feel “privileged” if they have only a two to three hour walk to the city to get seen by the medical staff, Brown said.
The earthquake brought worldwide attention to a country badly in need of as much help as it can get, Brown said.
“Now everybody’s on board,” he said. “It’s a global humanitarian effort and that’s awesome.”
A team from his church went to Haiti in January, just after the earthquake, and despite their experiences, Brown still intends to go in April.
“Teams usually always come back tired, but excited because they’ve felt like they’ve done something. This one came back and looked like they’d been in a war zone,” Brown said.
No matter a person’s talents or resources, they can always help in some way, he said.
“Some people can help others to go, some can provide supplies, and I’ve been given the ability to do something like this, an opportunity to share God’s love,” he said. “I think we have a moral and a Christian duty to help others in need.”
Rather than cart in more supplies and try to do medical care on his own, Brown said this time he would most likely connect up with a clinic that is already running and help there.
He has also been asked to help design a medical clinic that can be built modularly, so services can be expanded upon while still offering care.
They will build a front room to help people with immediate needs, such as cuts and infections, and while that is still running, add on an operating room, an obstetrics section and a recovery room.
Brown’s giving spirit extends to people in Washington County as well.
He and Montag opened the clinic in Jonesborough because Telford and the areas between Johnson City and Greeneville tend to be medically underserved.
The clinic will be open early and late, to accomodate before-school and after-work visits, and soon will be able to provide all mandatory childhood vaccines, something that would normally require traveling out of the area, Brown said.
Brown lives in Colonial Heights with his wife, Michelle. They have two children in college, Chris and Laura.