Local physician wins Komen-related award for service to breast cancer patients

Brooks honored in memory of Jamie Lieberman, who lost her battle.

Presentation of the 2019 Jamie Brooke Lieberman Remembrance Award to Dr. Brooks (left) by Jamie’s parents Jules Lieberman (center) and Carole Lieberman. (Photo credit: Justin Windheim ABC Creative/Susan G. Komen).

The Jamie Brooke Lieberman Remembrance Award is presented annually by Susan G. Komen of Philadelphia and the Lieberman family in memory of daughter Jamie, who passed away from inflammatory breast cancer in 2012 at the age of 35.

Each year, Komen Philadelphia and the Liebermans select an outstanding activist in the region who exemplifies Jamie’s spirit, determination and hope when it came to ending breast cancer. Dr. Ari Brooks, a Cherry Hill resident, was the 2019 recipient of the award.

Brooks has been receiving funding from the Komen Philadelphia community grants program for his breast health outreach program since 2002, shortly after he returned to Philadelphia following a decade-plus practicing medicine in New York.

The son of a family practitioner, Brooks began his medical career at Boston University and Hahnemann Hospital in a unique six-year program comprised of two years in Boston, and four in Philly. He then served his residency at New York University and later Memorial Sloan Kettering for cancer-specific training.

“I really liked the connection you make with people. With cancer, it’s an experience longer than just having surgery. When I came to Philly, there was a definite need for breast cancer specialists,” Brooks added.

Though Brooks still performs a lot of surgery outside of the breast-cancer realm, he spends a significant amount of time on breast cancer-related procedures. He relishes getting to know the women who put up a brave fight, the satisfaction in knowing he becomes a part of their lives, forever, and finds his reward in the personal relationships.

“Time and again, Dr. Brooks hasn’t only advanced the missions of Komen Philadelphia and of Jamie herself, he has defined those missions” said Elaine I. Grobman, CEO, Komen Philadelphia, in a release.

“He constantly looks at the progress we’ve made and says, ‘We can do even better.’ Then, he goes to work to lead the charge – with determination and altruism, with professionalism and compassion, with hard work and, above all else, with tremendous love.”

Brooks approached the honor in the style of many whose jobs it is to simply try and save lives every day.

“When Eileen sent me the letter, I was touched. I loved it more after meeting Jamie’s parents. I met Jamie just in passing before, and I was just inspired by her because she was fighting and had all this energy to get the word out about screening and early detection while fighting the battle the whole time. I was just blown away by their energy to come forward and continue the work. I really was just flattered and humbled by that recognition. It’s more than I needed or expected,” he admitted.

Before her passing, according to her mother Carole Lieberman, Jamie established a place called the Big Pink Footprint, which targeted women under 40, who had different goals and needs than other, older women dealing with breast-cancer treatment. They could go for a manicure and massage, and find a place where they could be pampered.

“What Komen and specifically Elaine Grobman saw in her was the ability to maintain her zest for life and her desire to help others. She held onto her conviction that she was going to fight this cancer and she was going to win it. However, what we learned about inflammatory breast cancer, it is by far the most aggressive type of breast cancer,” Lieberman said.

In her memory, a foundation was established and Lieberman began selling “Jamie Brooke bracelets.” That money was used to fund research to battle inflammatory breast cancer. That particular type of cancer occurs in only 5 percent of the entire breast-cancer population. As Lieberman explained, there is no telltale lump, but it can be found within the skin, where tissue becomes hardened very quickly as a primary signal.

Brooks estimated, over the near two-decade course of his Komen-funded programs, 18,000 women were given screening and mammograms, with 160 cancer diagnoses in that time. There is widespread consensus in the medical community that, regardless of socio-economic status, access to these things are key to early detection and an increased chance at survival.

To purchase bracelets in Jamie Brooke’s memory, visit: www.jamiebrookebracelet.com.