Rheumatology Specialist Takes Holistic Approach
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or one of the other musculoskeletal diseases/systemic autoimmune conditions commonly referred to as rheumatic diseases, you know how important it is to have a doctor you not only respect, but one with whom you feel comfortable.
Nancy A. Brown, D.O., who has operated a private practice in Norman focusing on rheumatology since 2000, takes several approaches to establish a solid relationship with each patient that goes beyond the treatment of the disease.
“I think it’s important to look at the whole person, to acknowledge the mind-body-spirit connection,” she says, explaining that stress, such as that brought on by such profound life changes as the death of a spouse or child, divorce or caring for an elderly parent, can adversely affect the health of a patient with a rheumatic disease (or even bring on the onset of a rheumatic disease).
“There is still a lot of ‘art’ as well as ‘science’ in medicine,” she states. “Not everything is evidence-based. So much of treatment involves looking at the whole person.”
And that, she points out, means establishing an ongoing doctor-patient dialogue.
“I am very strict about monitoring medicines and lab work; you have to have respect for these medicines because while they can be very effective, they can also sometimes be dangerous,” she says. “The patient is responsible ultimately for his or her own health: they must decide what they want to do, how their disease will be treated. It’s a partnership. I don’t treat patients; we work together to improve their lives.”
For all her patients, Brown’s whole-person treatment plan includes a focus on establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including moderate exercise and a diet that limits the intake of processed foods, refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, and the addition of more fruits, vegetables and lean meat.
Of course, administering the proper medications to control pain, swelling and joint damage is a vital component of Brown’s work.
Over the years, she’s witnessed numerous significant advances in the treatment of rheumatologic diseases. “Today, we use medications that gently suppress the immune system that is attacking the person,” she says, noting that biologics, which target specific parts of the immune system, in particular, are offering significant promise.
“I always say that it’s interesting that I chose to go into a specialty, rheumatology, in which the cause of the disease is unknown, diagnosis is difficult and there is no cure,” says Brown. “My emphasis,” she adds, “is working to increase the quality of my patients’ lives by controlling the activity of the disease.”
Brown, who accepts self-referrals as well as referrals from other health care providers, sees patients suffering from diseases that involve the connective tissue. In addition to rheumatoid arthritis, this includes lupus, vasculitis, arthritis connected with psoriasis, arthritis associated with inflammatory bowel disease, and fibromyalgia, to name only a few.
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Perhaps part of Brown’s success in treating patients—some have been with her for 20 years—is that she understands the importance of perspective and has herself experienced health issues that have helped make her more sympathetic.
Unlike many of her peers, Brown did not pursue the study of medicine directly out of college. After earning a bachelor’s degree in religion studies from the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico in 1976, she pursued archaeological studies, taught religious studies, and even spent a time at a kibbutz in Israel.
While in Israel, she dislocated her kneecap. Upon returning to the States, she underwent knee surgery, where, she says, “everything that could go wrong, did.” She was fortunate to find in her primary care doctor someone who would talk to her and acknowledge her pain.
“So, I thought, well, I can do that,” Brown recalled, explaining that it was this experience that led her to apply for medical school. She was accepted into the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery (now OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa), earning her doctorate in osteopathic medicine in 1989. After serving a rotating internship at Hillcrest Medical Center in Oklahoma City and an internal medicine residency at Tulsa Regional Medical Center, she continued with the subspecialty of rheumatology and a fellowship at the University of Missouri-Columbia Health Sciences Center.
Brown’s outside interests have included raising, with her late husband, a breed of naturally gaited horses known for their smooth ride, the Peruvian Paso.
Dr. Brown’s office is located at 709 26th Ave. NW in Norman. Phone: 364.8501.