Doctor enjoys small-town job

By NICK ROGERS, Greenwood Leflore Commonwealth

For Dr. Rockne Brubaker, the intimacy of community medicine in Greenwood provides a welcome change after a career in large urban hospitals.

Brubaker, 59, is Greenwood Leflore Hospital’s new otolaryngologist, or ear, nose and throat doctor. He was born in Decatur, Illinois, where his father ran a meatpacking business. After finishing high school, he attended DePauw University in Indiana, where he played linebacker on the football team.

Brubaker received a medical degree with honors from Rush Medical College in Chicago and completed his residency at Washington University in St. Louis a year early. After a stint at the renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, he entered a private practice group in Chicago.

“I was going to stay in academic medicine and kind of got sidetracked,” said Brubaker, who remained in private medicine for more than 20 years.

Brubaker originally wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, but he found that specialty too narrow in focus. However, he liked vascular surgery and working under a microscope and began looking at other fields that made use of those skills.

At the same time, he became interested in the idea of head and neck reconstruction, the process through which materials from other parts of the body are used to repair and replace parts of the head and neck that have been damaged through surgery or accidents.

Brubaker found otolaryngology at the intersection of the technical elements of cardiothoracic surgery and the versatility of head and neck work. Eventually, he found his way back into a teaching environment, working at Loyola University in Chicago for just over three years.

For Brubaker, who has spent most of his working life at large, urban hospitals, Greenwood is a welcome change.

Brubaker and his wife, Jill, who works with him in the Greenwood Leflore ENT and Allergy Clinic, found themselves taking every chance they could get to visit their forest cabin two hours outside the city.

“Because we loved that so much, we asked ourselves the logical question: ‘Why do we continue to live in the city?’” he said.

With two daughters and two sons grown up and, in Brubaker’s words, “dissipating” across the country, the couple found that question increasingly difficult to answer.

“We said, ‘Let’s go take an adventure,’ and that adventure lead to Greenwood, Mississippi,” he said.

Eventually Brubaker heard that the hospital in Greenwood needed a new ENT doctor. After speaking to a few friends and acquaintances who were familiar with the area, he and his wife decided to see the town.

“This was the only job that I really considered,” he said.

Brubaker said the friendliness of the community was one of the first things he noticed about Greenwood. “It was different from what we were used to on the cold sidewalks of Chicago,” he said.

The move also made sense professionally. “At Loyola we were taking care of heart transplant patients, people with fungal infections in the brain,” recalled Brubaker. “It was just stressful medicine, and I wanted to get back to servicing the community.”

As an avid golfer, pilot and tennis player, Brubaker anticipates having plenty to do in his free time. He is even considering a few new hobbies.

“My parents forced me to play bridge when I was young, and I didn’t really appreciate it, but now I would,” he said.

Brubaker is also excited to live near so much musical activity, and he looks forward to taking advantage of the various music festivals in the Delta.

Brubaker has two grandchildren in addition to his four children. His oldest daughter is a nurse anesthetist who moved to Indiana and “had the audacity to take her two grandbabies with her.”

His sons both skate on the U.S. men’s figure skating team, and his youngest daughter works as a physical therapy assistant in Tennessee.

Contact Nick Rogers at 581-7235 or nrogers@gwcommonwealth.com.