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Dr. William G. Brown, a Glen Burnie dermatologist who cultivated many pastimes, dies

Dr. William G. Brown, a Glen Burnie dermatologist for more than 30 years, enjoyed sailing aboard his Hobie 15 catamaran and driving his vintage 1963 Austin-Healey 3000 over back country roads.
Dr. William G. Brown, a Glen Burnie dermatologist for more than 30 years, enjoyed sailing aboard his Hobie 15 catamaran and driving his vintage 1963 Austin-Healey 3000 over back country roads. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Dr. William G. Brown, a Glen Burnie dermatologist who practiced for more than 30 years and cultivated various pastimes in his leisure, died of congestive heart failure on June 14 at his Pasadena home. He was 71.

William George Brown, son of a career noncommissioned Air Force officer, Thomas F. Brown, and his wife, Helen N. Brown, a homemaker, was born in Washington and raised in Camp Springs, where he graduated in 1968 from Crossland High School.

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He attended Prince George’s County Community College, where his English professor encouraged the young man to apply to Duke University.

“He was on such a shoestring budget,” said Lynn Wheeler, a stepsister-in-law, who lives in Finksburg. “But he worked very hard at Duke, and it became a life-changing opportunity.”

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It was at Duke that Dr. Brown first began experiencing the neurological symptoms that would eventually change his life.

After graduating from Duke in 1972, he entered the University of Maryland School of Medicine hoping to become a surgeon, Ms. Wheeler said.

“It was while he was in medical school that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis because he kept having bouts of double vision, which meant he had to change his major from surgery,” she said. “For 10 years, it showed no signs and then hit him with a wallop.”

It was a medical professor who counseled Dr. Brown and suggested he pursue psychiatry or dermatology, and he chose the latter.

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“I always loved Sherlock Holmes,” Dr. Brown said in a 2021 interview with the medical school alumni magazine. “Dermatology allowed me to solve mysteries.”

While at Maryland, he met and fell in love with a fellow medical student, the former Janet Ferber, who became a radiologist.

The couple graduated in 1976.

“We met over a cadaver,” he explained in the interview. “The laboratory room felt wonderful because in there, I got to know Jan. The smell of formaldehyde did not bother me in the slightest. Its fragrance smelled like roses in the spring ... it was 1972.”

The couple fell deeply in love, married in 1973 and raised their two children in a home overlooking Bodkin Creek in Pasadena, which they moved to in 1985.

“Skilled use of humor allowed him to move past his challenges, as well as relax patients’ anxiety and communicate his instructions for their care,” according to a family biographical profile of Dr. Brown.

“Influenced by those that had encouraged his success, he was genuinely interested in each patient he saw, particularly teenagers. He steered them to focus on their interests and reach higher. Also importantly, he encouraged personal responsibility for their treatments. ‘This is not your mother’s face,’ was one of his lines,” according to the profile.

Dr. Brown established his dermatology practice in Glen Burnie. By 1990, as the disease progressed, the gentle, bow tie-wearing dermatologist was seeing patients from his wheelchair.

While his wife was working at what is now the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center, it became obvious to her that his condition was worsening, so she joined his practice full time in 1999.

“Bill’s mental health was unbelievable throughout it all,” Ms. Wheeler said. “He never lost his intellectual curiosity or his positive approach and outlook on life. It was astounding. He was the model for good mental health.”

The couple sold the practice in 2012.

Before the multiple sclerosis grew worse, Dr. Brown enjoyed sailing aboard his Hobie 15 catamaran and driving his vintage 1963 Austin-Healey 3000 over back roads.

His hobbies were varied. He enjoyed carving totem poles, rebuilding cars, beekeeping and playing pinball. He liked collecting and restoring antique clocks and listening to their strikes and chimes. He also liked sitting on his porch and watching sunsets over Bodkin Creek.

Dr. Brown was also the author of an autobiography, “Every Day Is a New and Wonderful Day,” which captured his optimistic outlook on life.

A gathering was held for Dr. Brown Monday at the Barranco Funeral Home in Severna Park, and services were private.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Brown is survived by two daughters, Jennifer Stefanik of Clifton, South Carolina, and Kimberly Nelimark of Richmond, Virginia; a brother, Steven Brown; two sisters, Helen Hunter and Kathy Brown, all of Leonardtown; and five grandchildren.

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