Browne’s efforts alter view of drug addiction treatment, prevention worldwide

Listen to the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp’s interview with 2014 Sammies Finalist Thomas Browne, deputy director of the Office of Anticrime Programs in the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (Photo by Sam Kittner/

Over his three-decade career in public service, Thomas Browne has dedicated his life to how the U.S. and other countries prevent and treat drug addiction, particularly among women and children.

As the deputy director of the Office of Anticrime Programs in the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Browne has spearheaded innovative drug advocacy, treatment and prevention in 70 countries, including Afghanistan, Bolivia, Brazil, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru and South Africa.

William Brownfield, the assistant secretary in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, called Browne the “world’s leading expert” on drug prevention and treatment issues.

“He has convinced a lot of people that might be seen as drug warriors that we have important work to do in preventing drug abuse and treating the disease,” said Gil Kerlikowske, former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “Thom led these efforts before they were fashionable.”

For his efforts in spreading the message of drug treatment and prevention across the world, the Partnership for Public Service recently named Browne as one of the finalists for the 2014 Career Achievement Medal. The award recognizes a federal employee who has made significant contributions over a lifetime in public service.

Getting to know Thomas Browne

Federal News Radio asked each of the Sammies finalists five questions about themselves. Here are Browne’s responses:

What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?
Mentor, Motivate, Challenge

What’s the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?
“I don’t care what you do for a living, as long as it’s honest.” Advice from my Sicilian mother!

Who is your greatest role model and why?
Father Harold Rahm, a Jesuit priest from Texas who is now very active in Brazil. The padre created the first successful anti-gang programs in the United States in the 1960s and was prominently featured by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn.) in congressional field hearings across the nation. His book on working with gangs, “Office in the Alley”, was mandatory reading in my university juvenile delinquency course. He could have rested on his laurels with his gang work alone. Instead, he went to Brazil and created over 2,000 drug treatment, prevention and social service programs, including national, regional and global networks for prevention/treatment specialists. Today, he continues to work 14 hours a day, traveling the world, and solving problems at age of 95!

What’s the last thing you read and what’s next on your reading list?
Last read: “Inferno” by Dan Brown. Next on the list: “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khalid Hosseini.

What would be the title of your autobiography and why?
“It’s All About the Journey, Nothing Else Matters!” Life is mainly about pursuing ones goals. It’s sort of like Christmas. You spend months preparing and then it’s all over in the blink of an eye (one day). Some of my best accomplishments/goals took years to accomplish (e.g., building a drug treatment complex/hemispheric training center in Brazil). Once we held the ribbon-cutting ceremony, we all looked back on the intervening years and realized we experienced a lifetime worth of memories and lessons (made new friends, gained self-confidence in overcoming obstacles, learned new things about ourselves). We couldn’t wait for the completion day to arrive. Once it did, we reflected how we missed the excitement, anxiety and anticipation working together over the last few years and quickly set-about identifying a new challenge. Too many people spend way much time focused on a goal to the exclusion of all that’s going on around them. In the end, it’s what happens along the way to achieving our goals where we truly experience life.

The Career Achievement Medal is just one of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) presented annually by the Partnership for Public Service. View a photo gallery of all the Sammies nominees.