Dr. O’dell Moreno Owens, a pacesetter in well being care and training within the Cincinnati area for many years who additionally was twice elected Hamilton County coroner, died Wednesday afternoon. The previous fertility physician was 74.
Owens final served as president and chief government officer of the well being training nonprofit Work together for Well being from 2016 till his retirement in March 2021. He additionally suggested Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber acknowledged him as a Nice Residing Cincinnatian. Owens’ inspiring and intense speech when he bought the award moved some within the viewers to ask why he wasn’t operating for Cincinnati mayor.
Owens was properly conscious that his speeches had been fiery. It was his method of creating an affect with no stethoscope. “I put on my coronary heart on my sleeve,” Owens defined in an April 2022 interview. “I by no means felt I left the apply of therapeutic.”
“Individuals liked the actual fact he would get up for what he believed in and was very forthright in what he needed to say,” stated Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, who succeeded Owens as coroner.
Enhancing the Cincinnati space, significantly its well being, was all the time a central concern for Owens, who informed an Enquirer reporter final week: “I am saddened as a result of I am within the twilight years of my life and there are issues we have made progress on however a lot we now have not. In an effort to make actual change, we have to have collective affect. I’ve stated town of Cincinnati doesn’t have collective affect as a result of we do not have collective will.”
Response to Owens’ demise and the affect of his life got here from throughout the area. Cincinnati’s metropolis supervisor ordered that flags at metropolis services be lowered to half-staff in Owens’ honor.
“Dr. Owens took care of our group from cradle to grave,” the board and workers of Work together for Well being stated in a press release. “He was a trailblazer, a pacesetter, a good friend and a mentor to many.”
Owens “spent his life giving life, creating pathways, creating potential,” stated the Rev. Ennis Tait, pastor of New Beginnings Church of the Residing God in Avondale. “When he talked to kids, he opened their eyes to what will be. Even when they had been informed what couldn’t be. He confirmed them that your desires of what may very well be is usually a actuality.”
“There are lots of the explanation why O’dell is particular. From a profession standpoint, the wonderful factor is how he was nationally acknowledged for his medical data and his modern procedures with in vitro fertilization,” stated Eric Kearney, president of the African American Chamber of Better Cincinnati Northern Kentucky.
“He’s had an excessive amount of success in enterprise, not solely companies that he owned but in addition being on the board of administrators of what was StarBank and now’s U.S. Financial institution. That was groundbreaking,” Kearney stated. Owens was on the financial institution’s board for 29 years.
“There wasn’t a much bigger champion for Cincinnati than Dr. Owens. He labored tirelessly and selflessly, in so many alternative capacities through the years, to make us higher folks, higher advocates, and a greater group,” stated Jill Meyer, president and CEO of the Cincinnati chamber, in a press release. “I’m grateful to have known as O’dell a good friend and can miss his big-hearted laughter as a lot as his no-nonsense, agency push to enhance the established order.”
Owens’ adolescence: From the West Finish to Yale
Born and reared in Cincinnati’s West Finish, Owens first went to Antioch School. He additionally held a medical diploma and a grasp’s diploma in public well being from Yale College, the place he additionally accomplished his residency, in obstetrics and gynecology. He accomplished a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology at Harvard Medical College and served as a medical teacher in reproductive endocrinology.
Returning to Cincinnati in 1982, Owens established an in vitro fertilization program on the College of Cincinnati Medical Middle. He achieved Cincinnati’s first profitable conception and supply in addition to the primary being pregnant from a frozen embryo.
“I simply made a promise to myself that since I had had some mark of success – method past what I used to be destined to be – I had to return,” he stated in an interview earlier this yr.
Owens stated within the interview that he had all the time labored to assist kids who may establish with him as a result of he skilled poverty and racism in Cincinnati as a Black baby whose mom died younger.
Owens’ father, the only mother or father of seven kids, struggled with the “demons” of playing and ingesting. And younger O’dell discovered his household was poor. “I bear in mind somebody bringing us a basket on Thanksgiving and I used to be so harm,” he stated, “as a result of I all the time introduced my two cans to high school for the poor households.”
Owens’ credited Dr. Clinton Buford, a Black surgeon, his spouse Cathryn Buford of Cincinnati and their prolonged household for his work ethic. Owens babysat for the Buford household as an adolescent they usually took him in and paved a path for him to enter school.
From reluctant candidate to physician with a pulpit
Owens was elected coroner in 2004 and reelected in 2008.
Kearney stated that Owens “actually turned the coroner’s workplace into one thing that was dynamic and community-oriented. And related even to highschool college students.”
Owens initially wasn’t positive he wished to be a coroner when he was approached to run for the workplace – till he considered how he may use it to assist children keep out of the morgue. Owens was up one night time awaiting his teenage daughter’s return dwelling from a night out when Morgan known as and stated she couldn’t get there as a result of police blocked the driveway to research a taking pictures. “I assumed, what would have occurred had Morgan been on time?”
“My platform was, the upper the training charge, the decrease the murder charge,” Owens stated. He gave a thousand talks to college students, educators, nonprofits and companies geared towards fairness throughout his tenure. “I informed them, it is advisable heal private relationships every day.” One thing he says he by no means bought to do together with his mom.
For years, Owens gave college students on the College of Cincinnati School of Medication their first presentation on their first day. “He impressed us to guide with empathy and compassion,” stated Dr. Christopher Lewis, who was amongst these college students in 1996. “He remodeled our lives.” Now UC’s vice provost for educational applications, Lewis took over the speak from Owens in 2012 and stated he does his finest to emulate Owens’ “fiery speech.”
Amongst those that bear in mind the speech, together with Owens’ lectures on infertility, is Sammarco. “Being an individual of brown pores and skin, we did not have a whole lot of professors with brown pores and skin,” she stated. “He made an affect on us.”
Owens’ life’s mission of positively impacting the lives of younger folks by encouraging them to remain at school, search increased training and make good social decisions was well known, stated Andrea Hatten, chief administrator for the Hamilton County Coroner’s Workplace.
“His legacy inside the Cincinnati group is with out query and his affect will proceed,” she stated.
“He was planning on visiting the brand new crime lab subsequent week for a tour and to find out about how we carry out digital post-mortem which we had mentioned 10 years in the past,” Hatten stated. “I thought-about him a good friend and mentor and he might be vastly missed.”
Owens stepped down as coroner in 2010 to change into president of Cincinnati State Technical and Group School. Later, he served as interim Cincinnati well being commissioner.
He went to Work together in 2016 “figuring out that this is able to be my final job,” Owens stated in a press release then. “Whether or not serving to a baby get glasses and see the board at school for the primary time, passing a mannequin Tobacco 21 coverage to discourage youth from smoking or vaping or serving to scale back opioid overdoses, I retire figuring out that, collectively, we’ve made an enduring affect on our group’s well being.”
Owens’ lengthy file of group service included the board of the Cincinnati Hearth Basis; the Carl H. Lindner Jr. Household Middle for Conservation and Analysis of Endangered Wildlife on the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Backyard; the Ronald McDonald Home, the Federal Reserve Financial institution of Cleveland’s Cincinnati Enterprise Advisory Council. He was chairman of the Cincinnati Preschool Promise.
He additionally served on the boards of the College of Cincinnati, the Better Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Worldwide Airport, Cincinnati Pink Cross, Nice Arts Fund (now ArtsWave) and the Nationwide Underground Railroad Freedom Middle. For 10 years, he volunteered as chair of the annual CET Motion Public sale that helps Cincinnati’s public tv programming.
On the finish of 2020, Owens donated 54 acres that he owned in Walton, Kentucky, to town to change into a park.
Owens is survived by his spouse, Marchelle, in addition to sons Christopher and Justin, and daughter Morgan.
Morgan Owens stated of her father: “My dad was every part. My household and I are at a loss. My father gave a lot to this world, his lifelong mission was to make a distinction.
“He actually did. He touched many lives.
“Dad, your legacy will stay on.”
Workers writers Quinlan Bentley, Terry DeMio, Sydney Franklin, Sharon Coolidge and Cameron Knight contributed, as did Enquirer investigations and enterprise editor Mark Wert and the Enquirer archives.