Donate Life, Donate Time

Donate Life, Donate Time

By Alison Bailin Batz

Tim Brown is a transplant advocate at and after work

Scottsdale Airpark resident Tim Brown had a typical upbringing in Kansas City, where he played football, baseball and soccer.

“But I did it all at under 5 feet, so bonus points for me there,” Brown says with a laugh.

In high school, Brown stood 4-foot-11, but thanks to a college growth spur, he measures at 6 feet tall.

“It didn’t stop me from anything, and maybe it helped drive me into the medical field in a way,” Brown says. “My dad worked construction, and I went on jobs with him in my youth. The heat—and the freezing cold in the winter—humidity and hard outdoor labor were not for me, maybe in some small part due to my size at the time.”

As such, Brown studied respiratory therapy at the University of Kansas, graduating in 1976. 

“In my early career, I worked as a respiratory therapist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, specifically focused on the burn unit,” Brown says.

He then moved on to the area’s St. Luke’s Medical Center and eventually served as a department assistant director. In 1987, he relocated to Tucson to serve as University Medical Center’s director of cardiopulmonary services.

“In my role, I oversaw all respiratory therapy, diagnostic cardiology and other diagnostic services,” Brown says. “Eventually, I took on the role of vice president of ambulatory services for the medical center, which gave me direct oversight of organ transplant programs.”

According to Brown, while some people connect organ donation with someone’s passing, it is truly the ultimate gift of life.

“In addition to the lifesaving gift of organ donation, tissue and eye donors can save and heal many lives. Tissue donors help by restoring sight, preventing limb amputation, healing burn victims, repairing bone, tendon and ligament damage after trauma and much more through their selfless gifts,” Brown says. “One single organ, tissue and eye donor can impact up to 80 lives, both of the people they help and heal and their families.”

Passionate about the cause, when a colleague from Phoenix called and asked Brown to come to the Valley and serve in an interim role leading the Donor Network of Arizona, he obliged.

“That was in 2002, and I am still here,” says Brown, who has now served as the organization’s president and chief executive officer for almost 18 years.

Beyond the Donor Network, within the donation and transplantation community, Brown has served as the president of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, on the board for the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and on the UNOS Membership and Professional Standards Committee.

“Helping people understand the importance of giving the gift of organ, tissue and ocular donation has truly become a calling and is far beyond a career for me,” Brown says.

According to Brown:

Each organ donor has the potential to restore health and extend the lives of eight people.

Donated organs include the heart, lungs, pancreas, kidneys, liver and small intestines.

The gift of tissue donation touches the lives of more than one million people in the United States each year through transplantation.

One tissue donor can help support the healing of more than 75 people by restoring mobility, supporting burn victims and replacing damaged heart valves.

Bone, cardiovascular, connective and skin tissues improve lives in many ways, offering hope and healing through transplantation.

Each year, around 1,000 Arizonans heal lives through the amazing gift of tissue donation.

Each cornea donor has the potential to give sight to two people.

Eager to give back beyond his work at the Donor Network, Brown has served on the board for the American Heart Association and on United Blood Services’ advisory committee. He is also the Fiesta Bowl’s long-time leader.

“I am also honored to have been a part of the Fiesta Bowl Committee and Fiesta Bowl Charities for the past two decades, all thanks to a letter and some persistence,” Brown says.

In 2004, Brown wrote a letter to the head of the Fiesta Bowl, asking to join the board.

“Except that isn’t exactly how it all worked,” says Brown, noting the process to become part of the Fiesta Bowl Committee and/or board requires recommendation by a peer, interviews and proven commitment to the cause.

“Eventually, I made my way to a mixer and in due course did, indeed, earn a position on the Yellow Jacket committee.”

In the 15 years since, Brown has chaired nearly every committee within the organization as well as served as team liaison for participating college football teams like Notre Dame, Baylor and Clemson. Today, he sits on the organization’s board of directors and serves as chairman of its community relations and charitable giving committee.

“The true highlight above and beyond all of the fun and excitement of the game and parade is absolutely all of the people we impact every single day,” Brown says. “For example, in late October, we called 200 Arizona teachers and gave every single one a $5,000 grant to help them in the classrooms. We also spent a good portion of this year helping KaBoom! to build playgrounds for kids in need across Arizona.”

According to Brown, by the December 28 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, which will serve as a college football playoff semifinal this year, the bowl will have donated $3 million this year alone to Arizona charities.

“And then we will do it all over again next year, maybe even on a larger scale,” says Brown. ν