An ETSU professor who has been a transgender veterans’ rights activist has received an outstanding award.

Dr. George Brown

Dr. George Brown, professor of psychiatry and associate chairman for VA Affairs at ETSU, received the Lifetime Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

The award comes from a lifetime of work with transgender veterans and research.

Brown was accepted into medical school at age 19 at the University of Rochester in New York. Shortly after entering medical school, he was given a patient to interview. This patient was a transgender veteran.

“It was both fascinating and sad at the same time,” Brown said. “I knew then that this was an area I could make a contribution in.”

Brown spent 12 years in the United States Air Force as a psychiatrist and has done 30 years of active clinical work. He has made great strides for transgender healthcare. In 1988, he published his first paper about transsexuals in the military. Since then, he has had 178 articles and 24 book chapters published.

He is also looked to as a key expert witness in court cases regarding transgender health. One case, specifically, was about sex reassignment surgery and if it was a necessary procedure that could be counted toward an insurance deductible. He helped prove that it was medically necessary, and they won the case.

“I got letters from people I had never met thanking me,” Brown said. “The verdict really made a difference in their lives.”

Since Jan. 1, 2018, a law has been set in place that allows openly transgender people to enlist in the military. The current administration is trying to overturn this law, but has been blocked by the courts on each attempt. Brown is currently involved in all four national lawsuits regarding transgender troops.

Not only has Brown made a difference on a national level, he has also made a difference in our community. In 1993, he decided to come to ETSU because of the integration between the medical school, Veteran’s Affairs and campus. Since then, he started the first transgender clinic for veterans in the country, and implemented the first unisex bathrooms in the region.

Up until recently, the concept of transgender was an area that was looked over or ignored. It wasn’t something people talked about or studied. Brown’s mentors both in medical school and the military told him he would be ruining his career and that he wouldn’t be able to make anything of his work.

“I’m deeply honored,” Brown said. “Winning this award was a validation of the work I had done my whole life … it validated following my passion.”