3. Anne Brooks, DO, is a 72-year-old Roman Catholic nun, who despite serious health problems of her own, earned a medical degree. Today she runs a health clinic in rural Mississippi. Many of her patients cannot pay, are "incredibly sick," and wouldn't have a clue what a wellness program is, she says. A tenacious advocate for rural healthcare, Brooks is bridging the gap—remarkably—between rural poverty and health information technology.
4. Surgeon Steven J. Smith, MD, moved to Florida's Upper Keys in the late 1970s for the fishing and boating. But he spends most of his time making house calls and follow-up visits and seeing patients in offices he keeps in two towns. In his neck of the woods, Smith is the doctor most likely to be on call for surgery. Says the administrator at one of the two hospitals he's affiliated with, "He's going to be one of those physicians who will work until he can't do it any longer. I don't see him stopping; there are very few people like him left in the world," she says. "But if, for some reason, he can't continue at this pace or must cut back, it will take two surgeons and an internist to replace him."
5. Unlike most of the others mentioned here, Ryan Flesher, MD, doesn't exclusively treat a vulnerable patient population. But he did achieve something unusual this year, and that's why I'm including him. Flesher was a frustrated emergency department doctor, unhappy with the healthcare system that had him mired in billing codes, malpractice concerns, exhaustion, and not enough time for either himself or his patients. So he went out and made a film. He calls The Vanishing Oath the first "physician-focused" documentary film. Track it down.