J. Brent Kooistra, M.D.

For 25 years Dr. Brent Kooistra has partnered with the American Lung Association of Wisconsin to offer the state's only overnight camp for children with moderate to severe asthma, Camp WIKIDAS. As Medical Director for the camp, "Dr. Kootie" has established a connection with campers and their families that goes beyond the boundaries of the traditional patient-physician relationship. He is a mentor and a friend to one and all and treats every camper as though he/she were his own child. His goal for the camp is to provide a fun learning experience that the children will carry with them for a lifetime. Many of the children who attend camp have done so for several years and return as counselors when they are too old to be campers anymore. Dr. Kooistra makes each camp session a unique and fresh experience, exposing the children to new challenges, information and positive influences. In recent years he has recruited a race car driver, members of the University of Wisconsin marching band, and a martial arts professional to be part of camp and work with the kids to help them realize their full potential. Dr. Kooistra is at the camp full time, interacting with the kids, leading them in activities and participating in social events. The kids all love him.

For many of the children who attend Camp WIKIDAS, it is their first experience away from home, away from the care and support of their parents and family doctor. Dr. Kooistra addresses these separation issues with the entire family by building personal relationships and trust. Parents often comment that Camp WIKIDAS is the only place they feel comfortable leaving their children over night, confident that they are well cared for. One camper's parents stated upon dropping off their son at camp that although he was having some difficulty breathing that day, they felt more comfortable leaving him at camp with Dr. Kooistra than taking him to the Emergency Department. Dr. Kooistra stayed with that camper until he was confident the boy was out of danger.

By providing children with asthma the tools they need to better manage their disease, Dr. Kooistra is protecting not only their physical health, but their total well being. He addresses the full spectrum of medical and psychological needs and issues of children with asthma. The result is that the children themselves are better informed and have a much healthier self image and outlook on managing their asthma. Each year, the success of Camp WIKIDAS is measured by the number of children attending and their stated increase in asthma management knowledge gathered through a post-camp evaluation tool. Parents routinely remark about the changes they see in the child's confidence level, ability to self-administer medications, general knowledge of asthma triggers and how to take control of their condition.

The staff at Camp WIKIDAS is very loyal and dedicated. Many of the medical staff in particular use personal vacation time every summer to attend camp and have been with Dr. Kooistra for over two decades. Campers themselves return as counselors in high school and are eager to use their knowledge to mentor the younger children. Many former campers and their parents also serve as advocates, spokespeople, and volunteers for the American Lung Association, speaking at Lung Association events, testifying before legislative bodies on bills impacting asthma care, and volunteering for events. This year, Dr. Kooistra also introduced University of Wisconsin pharmacy students to the camp, involving them in fundraising efforts and volunteering during camp.

In addition to his work for Camp WIKIDAS, Dr. Kooistra has supported and promoted other American Lung Association of Wisconsin programs. He is an outspoken advocate for smoke-free air and other policies in support of lung health. He is also a tireless fundraiser, often digging into his own pocket to make sure the children who need to can attend camp. In 25 years, no child has ever been turned away from Camp WIKIDAS because of an inability to pay. Dr. Kooistra has stated that upon his retirement, he intends to "go around the state and do the work of the Lung Association," doing whatever is needed, wherever he is needed.

Dr. Kooistra has been a pioneer and tireless supporter in controlling asthma, particularly in children, reducing hospital visits (emergency department and in-patient) and increasing patient access to medical treatments, professionals and medications, particularly underserved populations. Dr. Kooistra has a statewide reputation of excellent care, compassion and a concern for the total welfare of his patients. This fall he was recognized by the Wisconsin Asthma Coalition and has received the American Lung Association of Wisconsin Distinguished Service Award. Dr. Kooistra "walks the talk," making the case for others to support Camp WIKIDAS by his own personal actions. All of this positively impacts the Lung Association's stated goal of decreasing asthma related hospitalizations and improving quality of life for asthma patients by increasing the children's level of asthma education and access to health care.