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Arnold School of Public Health

Staff Spotlight: Debra Brown, Business Manager for the Department Health Services Policy and Management

March 9, 2021 | Erin Bluvas,

There are a handful of people who spend their entire careers at UofSC – attaining immeasurable amounts of institutional knowledge and becoming cornerstones of the university. Debra Brown is one of them.

Currently the Business Manager for the Arnold School’s Department of Health Services Policy and Management (HSPM), Brown marked her 30-year anniversary at UofSC in 2020. Over the years, she has held positions with the School of Medicine, Associate Vice Provost for Research Office, Faculty Senate, and College of Mass Communications and Information Sciences.

"Debra Brown is the go-to person for the department. She has an extensive repertoire of department, school and university knowledge that makes her an astute business manager. She knows offices and names to call for any situation and can find resolutions to problems easily. She is fiercely protective of her faculty, and always looks for best ways for them to succeed," says HSPM assistant professor Bankole Olatosi. "Her knowledge about grants, funding requirements and applications to national agencies is second to none. If you know Debra, any time 'grant money' is mentioned, she perks up and seeks to ensure faculty put in the best possible options for success. She loves our students and challenges them always to be top professionals in appearance and conversations. She remains a unique and irreplaceable asset to our department."

Born and raised in Lexington, Brown has lived in the Columbia-area her entire life. When she found herself widowed with a young child in her late twenties, the single parent was drawn to the university setting because it offered the opportunity to work and learn at the same time.

“I knew I had to have a stable career, and UofSC provided that for me,” she says. “Many faculty members encouraged me to take courses to advance my knowledge base while I worked, and they mentored me along the way. The Arnold School of Public Health was very supportive of my endeavors and encouraged a working-learning environment.” 

Course by course, Brown earned a B.S. in Administrative Information Management from the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management and a nursing degree from Midlands Technical College. She spent her weekdays at UofSC and part of her weekends and evenings as a psychiatric nurse. Throughout it all, she raised her son, Kenneth Brown II, who now works for the Department of Defense.

I knew I had to have a stable career, and UofSC provided that for me.

-Debra Brown, Business Manager for the HSPM department

In addition to seeing her own child make his mark on the world, one of Brown’s favorite pass times is seeing UofSC students make a difference using what they’ve learned.

“One of the best parts of my job is when I see a student come as an undergraduate, obtain their master’s, and then go on to get their doctorate. It is most rewarding seeing them come to fruition in his or her potential,” Brown says. “After ­­working 30 years at UofSC, I believe I know professors at almost every institution in the U.S. now. Imagine that.”

One of the best parts of my job is when I see a student come as an undergraduate, obtain their master’s, and then go on to get their doctorate.

-Debra Brown, Business Manager for the HSPM department

After learning about the ins and outs of (often health/medical) research through her various university roles and working as a nurse where she saw the importance of public health firsthand, Brown is proud to work at the Arnold School. Her current role as the HSPM department’s business manager involves assisting with pre-award, award, and post award grant preparation, human resources, budget reconciliation (state, grant, foundation) supervision of staff, student services, scheduling (registrar), marketing of professional programs, and many other duties. She is grateful to have the opportunity to work with faculty, staff and students who go out and advance public health and healthcare.

“I have found one of the greatest aspects of life is knowing that one has made a difference in society for the better, and UofSC had a great influence on helping me reach that goal,” Brown says. “How many people can say they have worked 30 years as an administrator and a nurse? Not many.”

The Staff Spotlight Series is sponsored by the Arnold School's Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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