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HL20: Anne Brooks, DO—Caring for the Impoverished

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, December 13, 2011

In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is the story of Anne Brooks, DO.

This profile was published in the December, 2011 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

 "I set for myself a little higher standard and that is what I expect my patients to do."

Anne Brooks, DO, is a doctor, not an artist, but then again, maybe a bit of both. Too many of her patients at her small clinic in northwest Mississippi, she says, smoke too much—their skin wrinkled by years of tobacco intake, their lungs brittle. She tells each of them they are having too many cigarettes, and then she takes pad to paper. She sketches their heart and lungs, and writes how "tar," that toxic material, ravages both.

The patients look quizzically at her as she completes a drawing in the small office of the Tutwiler (MS) Clinic, the osteopathic physician says. It's not that kind of tar on those paved roads, she tells them, but it might as well be how thick it lays on your lungs.

"Do you see what this stuff is doing to you?" she asks. "It's not helping you (this smoking); it's doing far worse to you than you think.

"I draw pictures of the lungs and put tar on the alveoli where the air goes in and tell them if you put tar through the air sacs, how can you breathe?" Brooks says. "They look at me and we discuss what it means. It dawns on them what is happening to their lungs."

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