A remarkable story of how a doctor's faith-in-action in rural Indiana helped shine the light on America's opioid epidemic.
Dr. William Cooke, Indiana's Family Physician of the Year, was recently on the front lines of one of America's most devastatingly concentrated outbreaks of HIV, fueled by widespread opioid drug use in his community. The dual crisis in Austin made international headlines and brought major attention to the nation's opioid crisis. A family physician trained to treat things like hypertension and to give preventative care, Dr. Cooke wasn't prepared for the role he took on. He'd always imagined himself giving back to his community, but he never thought he'd confront the government as a voice for the forgotten and hopeless of his town. As part of his crusade he found himself before then-governor Mike Pence, urging him to implement the controversial needle-swap program, to which the governor reluctantly agreed, greatly curbing HIV spread in Austin.
Dr. Cooke struggled to keep his practice open during this crisis. Fueled by his faith and belief in helping others, he treated every addicted person who came to him, regardless of whether they had Medicaid, including numerous hopeless, addicted mothers whose babies he delivered. Some stories ended well and others didn't, but his love for the people of his community was never misplaced, and with God's help he was able to make a positive impact on his town.
Now internationally recognized for his work fighting HIV and opioid addiction, he offers a roadmap of hope for so many other struggling communities across the U.S. CANARY IN THE COAL MINE will help readers understand and empathize with the addiction and suffering of the brothers and sisters among us, because their pain impacts everyone. They'll learn how love can be applied toward healing and changing society for a better future. And they'll be inspired by how the faith and courage of one person can make a real difference.
Dr. William Cooke is a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Medicine, specializing in family medicine, addiction medicine, and HIV medicine, and serving the rural community of Austin, Indiana. He has received national recognition for his unique approaches to addressing the challenges faced by communities with limited resources, as has been covered by CBS, NBC, PBS, the BBC, USA Today, the New York Times, and NPR. He has been named Family Physician of the Year by the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians and received the national Physician of the Year Award by the American Academy of Family Physicians. When U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams was the Indiana State Health Commissioner he presented Dr. Cooke with the Award for Exceptional Public Health Service. Dr. Cooke lives outside of Austin, Indiana with his wife and six children.
Laura Ungar is an investigative reporter at The Courier Journal in Louisville, KY and USA Today. She has won more than fifty national, regional, and local awards in her twenty-nine years as a journalist. She has covered the health beat for more than half her career and written two award-winning series on Austin, Indiana.