Heather Brown 2018

'Community Angel' Dr. Heather Brown
Dr. Heather Brown, local orthodontist and active community volunteer, is the worthy recipient of Houston Woman Magazine’s 2018 Community Angel Award. She was nominated for the award by Sonia White, a friend.

Brown accepted the award on August 22 at the magazine’s 12th Annual Nominate HER Awards Luncheon. The yearly event, held at the Junior League of Houston, honors excellent role models in seven categories.

The Community Angel Award goes to a woman who has provided help and assistance in our community, leaving her mark on those she has assisted. And, certainly, in her 15 years as a practicing orthodontist in Houston, Brown has left her mark on thousands — by providing beautiful straight teeth and smiles to her clients and, via the Smile for a Lifetime Foundation, to others needing assistance.

The mission of the Smile for a Lifetime Foundation is to create self-confidence, inspire hope and change the lives of children in our community in a dramatic way. The gift of a smile can do all this for a deserving, underserved individual who can use this gift to better themselves and their community.  

In 2012, because Brown wanted to help children who could not afford braces, she founded the Houston chapter of Smile for a Lifetime Foundation. She is the sole orthodontist providing care for about seven children, ages 11-18, annually. To date, over $250,000 in services have been donated to disadvantaged children. Recipients are required to complete a questionnaire, provide a letter of recommendation, show proof of income, submit a photo of their teeth, report cards and show proof of good behavior.
“We want to make sure the recipients are in school, promoting academic excellence and can actually take the gift of a smile to help other people later on in life,” explained Brown. “That’s the reason we call it a ‘gift of a smile.’ We want them to take that smile and go out into the world and light up a room by helping someone else.”

Brown was born in Atlanta, but at about age three, her parents moved to Jackson, Miss. where she grew up.
“My parents divorced when I was around six years old. Mom did the best she could to raise us and try to instill great values and morals. She always encouraged us to pursue excellence.”  

Brown said she grew up always wanting to be in healthcare and because she loved children, her mom encouraged her to be a pediatrician. When she graduated high school, she decided to study biology. Before entering her senior year at the University of Southern Mississippi, she accepted a position with Forest General Hospital, Hattiesburg, Miss. in the emergency room.  

“I saw a lot of sick people, a lot of death and a lot of sad people. That was an eye opener; it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. I was getting ready to finish school and decided to pursue a master’s degree – still looking to do something in healthcare. What happened next was a life-altering experience. I received a rejection letter because my GRE scores were low.”

So, to figure out a new plan, she took a year off from school and did volunteer work.  
“I volunteered with my hometown dentist in Jackson, Miss., and that’s where I found my love for dentistry. It was a small practice, and his dental assistant who was pregnant had complications and had to leave.

“My dentist saw I was dedicated and reliable, so he asked me to work for him. After a while, I realized I loved the hands-on work of dentistry and applied for dental school. I received my doctor of dental surgery degree from Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in 2001.  Two years later, in 2003, I graduated valedictorian with a Specialist Certificate in Orthodontics at Howard University.”

Today, Brown runs her own business, Dr. Heather Brown, Orthodontics, located near the Texas Medical Center.

In 2017, Brown had a lot of patients calling in, telling her they had lost their homes in Hurricane Harvey and weren’t able to come in to have needed treatment. So, Brown and her staff designed and sold T-Shirts and caps and distributed the proceeds to victims in hotels, workplaces, etc. Most of the hurricane victims told Brown they couldn’t believe their orthodontist was helping them.     

Brown loves mentoring studetnts and offers four-week summer internships to high school and college students who are interested in learning more about a career in dentistry.  

“I set up a mock dental school where interns learn about the anatomy of teeth and experience hands-on experience by working with dental models and dental molds. Currently, I have about 10 or 12 interns who are in dental school," Brown said.

Brown is active in several professional organizations, including Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the American Association of Orthodontists.

Brown enjoys shopping and traveling, but what she enjoys most is being a mom to her two handsome sons, Jaxon and Jace.

Minnie Payne is a freelance journalist and staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.

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