NAVAL HOSPITAL JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –
Self-actualization is a common goal of many. Gaining a sense of purposeful fulfilment by aligning goals and values with their actions can be a lifelong feat. For Naval Hospital Jacksonville Director for Dental Services, Capt. Cecilia Brown, demanding excellence amid adversity has been a charging force in her story of success. Brown is the first African American female to complete the U.S. Navy Oral and Maxillofacial Surgical Residency. This has also positioned her to be the only African American female oral surgeon in the Navy.
Brown, born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in Sparta, Georgia, is the oldest of three children. She began her military profession in the U.S. Air Force and later, commissioned into the U.S. Navy under a health professional scholarship. Brown’s extensive educational background began with earning a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and psychology from Georgia College in 1991. Brown then attended Medical College of Georgia, where she also earned a bachelor’s degree in physician assistant studies in 1996. Her next pursuit led her to earning a master’s degree at University of Nebraska Omaha in 2000. Brown later attended historically Black college, Meharry Medical College where she received a doctorate degree in dentistry for dental surgery, and a master’s degree in health administration at Webster University by 2013.
Brown is a Diplomate of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the International College of Dentist. She is a member of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, National Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American College of Surgeons, Association of Women Surgeon, Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, American Association of Women Dentists, Military Officers Association of America, National Naval Officers Association, American Dental Association, National Dental Association, Georgia Dental Society, and she is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Even with her impressive scholarly background and awe-inspiring accomplishments, Brown remains humble and maintains a balance between work and family. “I find joy and comfort in living simply. I do not combine my professional life with my personal life. When I go back home to my friends and family, I am still the same ole Ceci,” said Brown.
It was within Brown’s more than 35 years of educational and military experiences that she faced some of the toughest racial disparities in adversity. Brown recalls being stared at and undermined during her residency to becoming an oral surgeon. “I was the only African American woman in the Navy’s Oral and Maxillofacial surgery program, and it was very challenging. Accountability was very important, and I always had to hold myself and others accountable for their actions. There were times when I wanted to quit,” she said. However, Brown persevered and completed the program.
During times of doubt, Brown noted that the driving forces behind her pushing forward were her son and husband. “Life is like a 4-way stop. You can either proceed through the stop sign to move forward on a particular path, go backwards and end up doing the same things, or make a left or right turn to make changes and try new avenues,” said Brown.
Brown’s advice to any servicemember on a path to aligning goals, facing adversity, and to those who are working to advance their career are to ask questions, step outside of their comfort zone, get involved in their command, learn the policies and instructions, have a seat at the table, and to find a very good mentor.