A Big Loss: Rick Brown, RIP

Many Californians and many across the country involved health policy and health advocacy were saddened by UCLA’s announcement today that Dr. E. Richard Brown passed away.
Rick Brown, the founding director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, was giving a talk in Louisville, Kentucky last week when he suffered a major stroke unexpectedly.
It was an honor to help celebrate his career in a February 8th symposium at UCLA–which he reminded me was not his retirement. While he was stepping down as the head of the Center, he planned to continue to teach, and to lead the other institution he founded and built–the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the definitive source for health research data in our state. He was passionate and working to the end.

We’ll all miss Rick (even those who don’t know him), as a researcher who provided good answers to the right questions, about coverage and care, health and wealth. Even after AskCHIS, there was AskRick, and he was always excellent at providing the answers, in a long policy report or brief (many of which live on my desk for easy reference), or in a short quote in the newspaper (we regularly sent many reporters needing an authoritative source for a number to him and the Center). Rick succeeded at being both a good academic, and a good advocate–actually informing the policy debate in Sacramento to the benefit of all Californians.

Rick supported Health Access and our work not just professionally with his research but personally with his guidance and friendship. For many of our organization’s earlier years, he even chaired the Health Access Foundation board. He contributed and always inquired about how we all were doing. There’s so much to thank him for. It’s sad to think I won’t see him again on a panel describing the impacts of health policy reforms, in the halls of a conference beaming about his family, or in a CHIS meeting going over the questions for the next two years (and how they can get funded).

After he saw his close friend Paul Wellstone also die too young, and various efforts at health reform in California stall, I am just glad he got to see President Obama (who he advocated for) pass the Affordable Care Act. Rick would have been as anxious as anyone, on pins and needles, about the Supreme Court decision and the presidential election. It’s up to us to fulfill the promise that he worked so hard on.

To share your memories of Rick’s life and achievements, his colleagues at UCLA have set up a memorial website where you can do so: www.rememberingrick.com.

If you would like to send private condolences, flowers or other commemorations to Rick’s family directly, they can be reached at:

Marianne Brown
1348 Hill Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.