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Horse Pen Mountain, the fighting chickens and Jim Brick

We lost one of our finest on Sunday.

Dr. Jim Brick, an iconic West Virginian and academic physician leaves behind a legacy, with his brother John, that won’t be seen again in our lifetimes.

Dr. Jim Brick

The Bricks are quintessentially West Virginians.

Twin brothers who are highly trained, highly intelligent and full of love for the people and the future of our state.

Jim was a rheumatologist that trained at WVU and the University of Missouri, a specialty in dramatic shortage in our state. He was a leader in medicine, having served as interim dean of our School of Medicine and as chair of the Department of Internal Medicine.

Leadership is an area of dramatic shortage in all of our world.

He lived by his own ethos.

Service, commitment to excellence, a love of his state and its people and a love for his twin brother John, former chair of neurology at WVU.

Jim and John had entered a new adventure: serving the state.

Together with Dr. Larry Rhodes, former chair of pediatrics, they committed to becoming ambassadors for good. Going to the southern part of the state hardest hit by the downturn in the economy, they connected to physicians, schools, clergy, and helped the vulnerable and suffering people and communities of the coal mining areas of our state.

They approached this new work with gusto and enthusiasm.

Just in the last few months, they spearheaded a initiative that saw new WVU clinics in Glenville, at the School of Osteopathic Medicine, and the Greenbrier resort.

Jim was most proud of what he, his brother, and other WVU physicians did quietly to serve others. One example of this was at the clinic in Gilbert, West Virginia, that philanthropist Buck Harless created in memory of his son.

The Bricks, Dr. Judie Charlton, former chair of ophthalmology and now chief medical officer of WVU Medicine, and a small group of rotating students went to Gilbert once a month to help the community.

I went with them to Gilbert when I first came to WVU.

On the way, they gave a history lesson and pointed out the fighting chicken farm, Devil Anse Hatfield’s grave and talked about the legend of Horse Pen Mountain, where native Indians sequestered horses and penned them at the top of the mountain.

I, like many of our medical students, benefitted from the colorful description of the history on the way to the clinic from Charleston. Once we got to the clinic, all of us were wowed by the great teaching and clinical care provided by the Bricks.

Identical twins from Dunbar, they never forgot their West Virginia roots.

They loved taking care of people. And they did it right - by really knowing the people they treated. Whether it was a grandmother from Mingo County, a relative of a friend, or our state leaders, everyone knows the Bricks.

Jim Brick, left, with his brother John, at work in the Gilbert Clinic

How do you define a legacy of someone who committed himself to a lifetime of service and to leadership for a state so in need?

I have spent a lot of the last night and day since Jim’s passing thinking of this.

I think it is by carrying on this legacy.

John texted on the day that Jim died, “I am going to keep doing the stuff we started.. it was very important to us.. so if anybody asks tell them I will keep going.”

He also said, “He would expect nothing but this out of all of us.”

It harkens back to something Greg Darby, owner of Little General stores said in the past: “If you can, you should.”

Jim Brick created a legacy of service, of pure love for vulnerable people in our state, and a love of the practice and teaching of medicine.

He lived Greg Darby’s challenge each day and he did what he believed.

And we are all better for it.

John, we join you in arms to finish Jim’s work and dream for West Virginia. We also join you in mourning Jim - in the loss of a great doctor and great person that created great impact for those of us lucky enough to know him.

I know that Jim has transcended Almost Heaven.

With our thanks, love and commitment to a better West Virginia and world.

(In celebration of Jim’s friendship, service and commitment to his family, patients and the State of West Virginia, The Brick Health Outreach Fund has been established for those wishing to make a memorial contribution. Please send gifts to WVU Foundation, One Waterfront Place - 7th Floor, PO Box 1650, Morgantown WV 26507. Checks should be made payable to the WVU Foundation, Inc. In the memo portion of the check please note the Brick Health Outreach Fund. Contributions can also be made at the following link and specify designation to the Brick Health Outreach Fund.)