Dr. C. Harmon Brown dies at 78; sports medicine pioneer advocated for female athletes

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Dr. C. Harmon Brown, considered a pioneer in the fields of sports science and medicine, died of cancer Tuesday at his home in San Mateo, Calif., USA Track & Field said in a news release. He was 78.

Brown, a professor at UC San Francisco, was a longtime member of the medical and anti-doping commission of the International Assn. of Athletics Federations before stepping down last year.

Trained as an endocrinologist, his lifelong passion was track and field. He coached at the club, high school, collegiate, national and international levels.

From 1967 to 1986, Brown was on the coaching staffs of several U.S. international teams, including two Olympic and two Pan-American teams. When he began coaching in 1962, women were not allowed to compete in track and field at the collegiate level.

He became an outspoken advocate for female athletes and conducted pioneering research on the effects of strenuous exercise on the female body, work that demonstrated the capabilities of women to compete in sports, even while pregnant.

"Women are staying in their sports longer," Harmon told Sports Illustrated in 1997. "They want to start a family, but they also want to continue to compete."

"His contributions to our organization are immeasurable," USATF board Chairman Bill Roe said of Harmon, "and he is one of the people in our sport for whom the term 'gentleman' is an understatement."

Charles Harmon Brown was born Nov. 7, 1930, in Washington, D.C., and ran the hurdles at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1952, he earned a medical degree at the George Washington School of Medicine in 1956.

Drafted into the Navy in 1961, Brown served at the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Lab in San Francisco.

He remained in the Bay Area and worked for nearly 40 years at UC San Francisco, stopping only when he became ill in recent months, said longtime colleague Dr. Francis Greenspan.

A clinical professor of medicine and member of the thyroid clinic staff at UC San Francisco, Brown also was director of student health services for many years at Cal State Hayward, now known as Cal State East Bay.

He was a track coach at Hayward from 1974 to 1992 and then at San Francisco State University.

Brown was editor and co-author of the IAAF "Medical Manual for Athletics and Road Running Competitions: A Practical Guide."

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