William Cooke, MD, FAAFP, has been on the front lines of primary care since 2004 when he first opened his humble family medicine practice in Austin, IN. Dr. Cooke had always planned to practice in a rural, underserved area of his home state, but he was shocked by the toll that decades of high unemployment and generational poverty had taken on his chosen community. Prescription pain killers, anti-anxiety medications, and muscle relaxers were the drugs of choice. Certain neighborhoods revealed a life in rural America much worse than Dr. Cooke had ever imagined, and things were about to get a whole lot worse.
By February 2015, the tiny rural town of Austin found itself in the crosshairs of two deadly epidemics. The worsening opioid crisis led Austin to become what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed was the epicenter of the country’s most serious drug-related HIV outbreak. Not only were members of the community dying of overdoses, they were also suffering the dire consequences of sharing dirty needles. As these two epidemics raged, Dr. Cooke welcomed all people to his clinic who needed help, regardless of their illness or ability to pay – a view point that was not always popular.
Through tireless advocacy and key stakeholder engagement, Dr. Cooke lobbied state and local leaders to establish a syringe service program, free HIV testing, needle safety education, job counseling, and referrals to drug treatment and other social services. A mobile needle exchange soon followed, and more than 5,000 clean syringes were provided to those in need in just the first two-week period. In addition, he rallied other community health workers, churches, and local community leaders to help those in need of food, shelter, and other social services. Dr. Cooke and his care team was the “secret-sauce” to turning the tide on the twin epidemics that was rolling over Austin.
“My training in the specialty of family medicine is honestly the only training that could have prepared me to provide this level of comprehensive care to the people of my community,” Dr. Cooke said. “I’ve seen a lot of suffering, but I’ve also seen a lot of joy and progress.”
Dr. Cooke’s story is eloquently told through the pages of his book, Canary in the Coal Mine: A Forgotten Rural Community, a Hidden Epidemic, and a Lone Doctor Battling for the Life, Health, and Soul of the People, which will be the focus for September’s Health Equity and Social Justice Discussion Club. Register to attend today!
Wednesday, September 21, @ 7:30 p.m.
Moderator: Roxanne Cech, MD, FAAFP
Featured Guest Speaker: William Cooke, MD, FAAFP, family physician and author of Canary in the Coal Mine.
Discussion Registration (Free)
About the Author
Dr. Cooke is the founder of Foundations Family Medicine in Austin, the 2019 recipient of the American Academy of Family Physicians’ (AAFP) Family Physician of the Year Award, and the 2019 Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award for his remarkable fortitude in leading his small, rural Indiana town through the opioid and HIV epidemic. WATCH: Dr. Cooke’s fight to save a town from the opioid epidemic – Canary in the Coal Mine: Book Trailer.
The Ohio Academy of Family Physicians’ (OAFP) Health Equity & Social Justice Discussion Club is a safe and respectful virtual space to discuss important literature, media, and current events on topics of social justice and health equity – all from the comfort of your home or office. Guided conversations provide unique opportunities for insightful reflection and open minded sharing with your peers. Sessions will take place via Zoom under the guidance of a physician moderator. Registration is free and open to all AAFP members.
The Health Equity & Social Justice Discussion Club will alternate between traditional books and a curated collection of virtual content. You do not have to read the entire book or all of the virtual content to participate! All points of view are welcomed and respected.
The last discussion topic and date in 2022 is:
Tuesday, November 29, at 7:30 p.m.
Curated Virtual Content: “Health Equity for Marginalized Populations Struggling with Homelessness, Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder”
Moderator: Dana Vallangeon, MD
Members participating in the Health Equity & Social Justice Discussion Club can submit a Continuing Medical Education (CME) Reporting Form to the AAFP member resource center to claim CME credit as a professional enrichment activity. Credit may be claimed, commensurate with participation, for partaking in other medical educational experiences and activities, such as informal self-learning activities. These activities may or may not be documented, and are not certified by the AAFP, the American Medical Association, and the American Osteopathic Association, but are of a nature of professional enrichment to the family physician.
If you have questions, please contact Executive Vice President Kate Mahler, CAE, or call 800.742.7327.
Financial support for this program was provided by the AAFP Foundation to the Family Medicine Philanthropic Consortium (FMPC) and is funded by members like you! Help programs like this continue to support family medicine by giving to the AAFP Foundation. Select “Chapter Grants” when making your gift online. Thank you!