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Dr. O’dell Owens, distinguished physician and public health advocate, dies suddenly at age 74

Staff report

Dr. O’dell Owens, former president and CEO of Interact for Health, died suddenly Wednesday at the age of 74.

Owens served as Hamilton County Coroner in 2004, becoming the first African American to serve in an executive office in the county’s history.

In 2010, he became president of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. He oversaw the opening of a satellite campus in Middletown. He later served as the Cincinnati Health Department as medical director and interim health commissioner.

Dr. O’dell Owens

He retired from Interact for Health and Interact for Change in March, 2021.

He is survived by his wife, Marchelle, and children Chrisopher, Justin, and Morgan. They lived in Amberley Village in Cincinnati.

His daughter Morgan released this statement: “My dad was everything. My family and I are at a loss. My father gave so much to this world, his life-long mission was to make a difference. He touched so many lives. Dad, your legacy will life on. Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers.

“The staff and Board of Interact for Health are deeply saddened by the death of Dr. O’dell Owens, our former President and CEO. We extend our condolences to his wife Marchelle, and children Christopher, Justin and Morgan,” Interact for Health said in a statement.
“Dr. Owens took care of our community from cradle to grave. He was a trailblazer, a leader, a friend and a mentor to many. During his four and a half years at Interact for Health, Dr. Owens worked to improve access to health care via school-based health centers, reduce tobacco use, address the opioid epidemic and improve health equity in the region. His contributions to the foundation were part of a long career to improve health in Greater Cincinnati. He will be deeply missed, and his legacy will continue to inspire work for years to come.”

Owens helped found RISE Learning Solutions, a nonprofit organization that focuses on early childhood education and training technology.

Throughout his career, he distinguished himself through his public service — on both sides of the Ohio River — and gave uncountable talks about social equity and student life choices.

He was the first African American to sit on the board of the University of Cincinnati. Other board service included U.S. Bancorp, the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife. He also served as president of the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners.

He was named a Kentucky Colonel and received Northern Kentucky University’s Lincoln Award in recognition of his extensive public service. In 2021, he donated 54 acres to the City of Walton to be converted to a community park subsequently named Dr. O’dell Owens Park.

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