Dr. Lesley C. Brooks, Sunrise Community Health
2018 Northern Colorado Women of Distinction - Health Care
Fighting for civil rights has always been central to the life of Dr. Lesley Brooks — and health care, she says, is definitely a civil right.
“For me, that is bedrock,” she said. “I wish I could say that I was as thoughtful and deliberate as a young person. My perspective has developed over time, as I have matured. My dad was an attorney and did lots of civil rights work, so it was fundamental for us in my family.
“I’m one of three siblings; my two older sisters were born with developmental delays,” Brooks said, “so vulnerable populations are really central to who I am.”
Brooks found her way to medicine during a 30-month tour with the Peace Corps in Malawi, where she worked in AIDS education and realized that health care is the most fundamental civil rights issue of them all.
“In the Peace Corps in the mid-‘90s, we did HIV and AIDS education work, teaching about safe sex and how this disease is and is not transmitted. I helped run mother-baby clinics. One woman after another — they’d had five, six, seven pregnancies but just one live child because children were dying of all these diseases and infections. Who cares if you have a First Amendment right if you’re losing your children to diarrheal disease? So health care and civil rights are the perfect marriage.
Back in Colorado, Brooks serves as chief medical officer for Evans-based Sunrise Community Health and as assistant medical director for the North Colorado Health Alliance.
“Sunrise is a federally qualified health center. We care for people regardless of their ability to pay — the most vulnerable in our communities,” she said. “There was never a question about where I would practice medicine. Community health centers were born in the belly of the civil rights movement — (President Lyndon Johnson’s) war on poverty — that produced community health centers, community mental health centers, Head Start, Legal Services.
“This is the work I was supposed to do and where I’m supposed to be.”
Brooks, a board-certified family physician, has practiced full-scope family medicine including obstetrics in Northern Colorado since 2008. In her role as assistant medical director, she is responsible for oversight of care plans for Medicaid patients enrolled in the Regional Care Collaborative Organization and for coordination of an integrated team of providers working to better manage the use of opioids for treatment of chronic pain. She also co-chairs the Provider Education Work Group for the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention.
Away from work, she said, “I’m proud of being a mom to two kids. My husband knew that he wanted to be a parent. I thought the world would be a better place if I wasn’t somebody’s mom but I found out the opposite — it’s a place where all my values come into play.
“I’m a work in progress. I think my children would confirm that — but I’m proud of that, too.”
View 2018 Women of Distinction publication.