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HL20: Anne Brooks, DO—Caring for the Impoverished

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, December 13, 2011

For 28 years, Brooks, a Roman Catholic nun, has practiced in one of the poorest areas of the country; that's why she went to Tutwiler in the first place. She spends morning and night working for her patients, and in the process has become a spokesperson for the country's needy and has been lionized by various groups for her efforts in helping the poor and improving the healthcare needs of diverse populations.

Earlier this year, she was among the invited speakers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Health Equity Summit in Washington, DC. After she received the invitation, she noted there were prominent speakers also invited, with fancy academic credentials, "then there was me, too."

Brooks opened the clinic in Tutwiler in 1983 with support from Catholic Extension, an advocate of missionary work in the U.S., and opened a satellite clinic in Glendora, MS, in 1995, which has since closed. The clinic operates through donations and continues to provide access to healthcare for some of the country's poorest residents, according to Brooks. The poverty level of the population in Tutwiler is 38.5%, compared to the national average of 12.5%, according to the Department of Labor.

In recalling how she tries to motivate patients to stop smoking, Brooks concedes that she's "tough" on them because she was a patient herself. She became a nun with the Sisters of Holy Names of Jesus and Mary at age 17. Within a few years, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and lived with a back brace and wheelchair for the next several years until her condition was successfully managed.

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