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Member Spotlight: Dr. Amber Brooks on Health Equity and the Importance of Representation in Medicine


Amber Brooks, MD, is an anesthesiologist and researcher studying chronic pain in older minority populations. She’s also an educator and mentor. In this ASA Member Spotlight, she shares her insights on guarding against bias in patient care, the future of electronic health records post-COVID, and the importance of training an increasingly diverse next generation of physicians.

Racial and gender inequity in healthcare often fly under the radar for those who have not witnessed it directly. What do you most want people to know about health inequity in the U.S. and what’s at stake?

Racial and gender inequity are well documented. For those who have suffer at the hands of inequity, the consequences can be life-threatening. We all have biases (explicit and implicit) and must undergo the necessary training and recognition, so that our biases don’t negatively impact patient care. It is my opinion that we should employ the same level of precautions to guard against inequities and bias as we do other sentinel events like wrong-sided procedures, because the consequences can be equally life-threatening.


You’ve done significant research in the area of electronic health records and the benefits for vulnerable populations in particular. What did you study and what were your findings?

This research is ongoing. But we know that vulnerable populations including older adults and racial/ethnic minorities increasingly have access to the internet and mobile devices. This presents a unique opportunity, especially in light of COVID, to leverage technology to deliver non-medication pain treatments and educational information about non-medication treatment options.


You’ve taken on a wide range of roles at Wake Forest School of Medicine. What’s a week in the life of Dr. Brooks? Is there a highlight you look forward to particularly?

A week in the life of Dr. Brooks is very busy. I spend two days a week treating patients with a variety of chronic pain conditions. On Wednesdays, I shift gears, and pivot towards my medical education work which focuses on making sure that the first- and second-year curricula include learning materials that highlight the intersection of health inequalities, racial injustice, and social injustice. The latter half of the week is focused on my clinical research in older adults with chronic pain with a particular focus on minority populations. Suffice to say, I haven’t been bored in a very long time – and that is precisely the reason that I love being an academic anesthesiologist and pain medicine physician.


Mentorship is a huge part of your personal and professional life. Can you share a specific mentorship experience or relationship that has had real impact on how you inspire the next generation of anesthesiologists?

Absolutely. One year I gave a lecture to first-year students about pain management and opioids. After the lecture I received a very heartfelt email from a student, saying:

“Your perspective on this topic and delivery of the content was so refreshing! I'm still exploring what I want to do, but I have a deep interest in addiction medicine. Additionally, since starting medical school here in July you are the first Black woman lecturer we have had in our pre-clinical learning (aside from some talks during orientation) – I kid you not, I almost cried when I opened the recording platform and saw that you were delivering the lecture. I'm a Black, first-generation medical student, and it was really awesome to finally be taught by someone like you. Thank you so much for what you do!” 

I have since gone on to develop a mentoring relationship with this young lady and I continue to inspire her to pursue a career in anesthesiology and pain medicine.

Representation in medicine matters. There is ample evidence that suggests that patient outcomes are improved when there is shared life experiences or concordant racial/ethnic backgrounds between patient and physician. I will continue to work tirelessly to mentor, cultivate, and inspire our next generation of underrepresented minority students to pursue careers in medicine because patients’ lives depend on it. Onward and Upward.

What inspires you to keep doing the work you do?

This quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, inspires me to keep moving forward:

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1966

I am the granddaughter of a civil rights attorney, and the great granddaughter of one of the first African- American males to graduate from Northwestern University School of Law in 1911; issues around social injustice, racial injustice and equity run deep in my veins. I honor their legacy by using medicine as my conduit to impact as outlined in a piece Fulfilling a Legacy: Medicine as My Conduit for Seeking Justice I wrote for Momentum.  I am committed to helping lead diversity and inclusion initiatives in my community and workplace. To that end, in July 2020, I became the inaugural Vice Chair of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for the Department of Anesthesiology at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. In this role I help lead efforts in community engagement; bias and disparities education; pathway building/recruitment & retention of a diverse workforce; and healthcare disparities research.

Amber K. Brooks, MD, is Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC. She currently serves on ASA’s Committee on Professional Diversity and Educational Track Subcommittee on Pain Medicine.


ASA Community Blog is published as a benefit for ASA members. The views expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributing writers only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of ASA.


Apr 22, 2021 12:42 PM

Congratulations Amber on this wonderful profile!  I'm pleased to add that Dr. Brooks will be promoted shortly to Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and we are excited that she will be furthering her already impressive efforts in this regard.