I Am SNMA: Sister Anne Brooks, D.O.

Donald C. Carson and Erin N. Syers
2012 D.O. Candidates, Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine
National SNMA Osteopathic Committee Co-Chairs

Practice What You Preach
Diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis at age seventeen, Sister Anne Brooks, D.O. was told that she would be confined to a sedentary life of pain, and back braces. She spent the next seventeen years as a wheelchair bound teacher and was put on several medications and admitted into an arthritic hospital that improved some of her symptoms.  After refusing to accept her debilitating condition, she signed up to volunteer in a free clinic in Florida and it was there that she met John Upledger, D.O.  He offered her Acupuncture treatments, helped her change her diet, and referred her to an osteopathic neurosurgeon who would perform a procedure called manipulation under anesthesia.  It is because of the help of Dr. Upledger that she has been able to live successfully with rheumatoid arthritis and maintain a normal lifestyle, pain free!  Several years later, his impact in her life would inspire her to become a physician as well.  “Osteopathic Medicine offered more alternatives in treating that proved very helpful for me.” said Sister Anne. Now 72 years old, Sister Anne, is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine where she obtained her Doctorate at the age of 44.  But before she decided to attend medical school, she wanted to make sure that she was pursuing medicine with the right motives.

In 1955, she became a Roman Catholic nun of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.  “Sisters are simple and humble,” she says, “Just like the yeast makes bread rise but no one really notices it, so is a Sister.  We are called to work with the marginalized and poor.  So I wanted to make sure that I was doing it for the right reasons.”  After confiding in a close friend about her apprehension, they simply told her, “you will know, when the doors open.”  And they did!  She was admitted and successfully graduated from Michigan State.  Upon graduation she wrote letters to several rural communities to offer her services as a physician. Tutwiler, Mississippi was the only place to answer!

Sister Anne truly epitomizes the beauty of the Osteopathic philosophy in her practice.  Her clinic in Tutwiler, which was abandoned by a previous doctor before she arrived, is now a full functioning free clinic.  Her presence there has been well received and so far it has been a successful practice, but not without adversity.

Her clinic, on average, treats 68% of the patients without pay.  14% are Medicaid and 7% are insured.  “I may or may not get paid,” says Sister Anne.  She sends out newsletters to the community to try and receive donations in an attempt to keep the clinic in business.  “The biggest problem that my patients face is lack of money and lack of adequate health education.  In addition, many of my patients can’t even get a ride to the doctor!”  This doesn’t stop Sister Anne as she attributes her time at Tutwiler as one of the best experiences of her life.  “I love it,” she says, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything!”

One of the foundations of the Osteopathic philosophy is to practice preventative medicine, which Sister Anne describes as “education and empowerment of patients.”  She states, “If you can prevent a disease through diet, exercise, weight loss, etc., then try it!  Pay attention to your patient and the changes that he or she is making.  Take care of the person and not the disease,” she stresses.  “The most important part is when the patient realizes that the doctor is not the healer and they are not the one in charge.  I don’t heal, I simply empower my patients to heal themselves.  The power is within them.”

Sister Anne makes it a point to practice preventative medicine in her clinic.  She not only treats but she educates.  She uses Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) as well and offers an affordable way to manage her patient’s health successfully.  In return her patients are healthier, smarter and proactive about their health.  For the last 27 years, her clinic doors have remained open, despite its demographics. Where others have crumbled, her foundation was unwavering.  There’s nothing coincidental about Sister Anne’s success at Tutwiler. It is simply Heaven sent!

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