Physicians with Passion: Family Practitioner and Painter Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown, MD, is a family practitioner and a popular Physician's Money Digest columnist. But there's more to him than his day job. He's also an accomplished painter and one of a growing number of physicians who are passionate about art.

Editor’s Note: This article, featuring Jeff Brown, MD, is the second in a series on “Physicians with Passion.” Click here to read last week’s story on neurologist and photographer Walter Nieves, MD.

Jeff Brown in his studio and gallery in Redwood City, CA. Photo courtesy of Jeff Brown. He welcomes interested readers to his studio.

“It’s not art, it’s not science—it’s the same thing.”

That insight comes from Salvatore Mangione, MD, an associate professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He offered it in an interview with Robert Glatter for the online issue of Forbes last October. The article was entitled, “Can Studying Art Help Medical Students Become Better Doctors?”

Jeff Brown, MD is no stranger to this concept. He is not only engaging in art. He is making it. “I am simply driven to paint,” he says, adding, “I'm happy when I paint…and want that feeling communicated."

Painting courtesy of Jeff Brown, MD. “My work is full of references, symbols and the whimsy I have collected along the way. But I do learn something from each piece as my persona flows into it, some planned and some, to my everlasting surprise and delight, not.”

Dr. Brown is a family practitioner who acts as medical director at Los Gatos Meadows, a large retirement community. He also exhibits his artwork and has a website displaying it to boot: Jeff Contemporary Oils. He says, “When I started painting 30 years ago, I was fully in the saddle, but had control of a flexible schedule to maintain my outside activities.” Obviously this ability to regulate his calendar has served him well.

Painting courtesy of Jeff Brown, M.D. “I came into painting through the back door, as a collector. After going on about why this and that wasn’t done on work in museums and galleries, I had to see if I could do it myself. And I never looked back.”

I first became familiar with Dr. Brown because he also writes for Physician’s Money Digest on a variety of subjects. Though I have never met him, I feel comfortable saying he would agree with the following line of reasoning.

Though physicians overall are thought to be primarily left brained (logical and analytical), today many feel that strengthening right-brain function (visual- spatial) can contribute to the development of a better physician. This is because a heightened power of observation can lead to stronger diagnostic skills. Engaging and appreciating art can be an important part of that process.

My Comment: Jeff Brown, MD is one of a growing body of physicians that live not only to practice medicine, but also have a life outside medicine. This “work to live” attitude, instead of “live to work,” is relatively new among physicians and one to be recommended. The reason? Outside activities may not only increase the longevity of a medical career, but also diminish any fear of retiring that some doctors harbor.