Dr. Paul Lubitz: Providing medical services to underserviced populations
March 3, 2014
Dr. Paul Lubitz on Providing Medical Services to Underserved Populations
It was a momentous day for me – and one I will not soon forget – as I stood on the platform with the Honorable Dr. Samuel A. Hinds, Prime Minister of Guyana, a small, struggling country in the very north part of South America. I was there to receive a citation of honor for my contribution to the development of health care in this impoverished country. Indeed, my name on the award, “Dr. Paul Lubitz”, still is fresh in my mind.
My work in Guyana had culminated in a successful investigation that identified new means for diagnosing malaria – a major health concern and cause of death in that region. As I received the Government of Guyana Certificate of Merit, my mind traveled back ten years prior to that first volunteer medical trip I had made in 1986. Who would have thought then that my strong desire to help others would lead me to this point?
The country of Sudan in Northeast Africa was – in early 1986 – experiencing a tumultuous civil war. Violence had displaced millions and refugee camps had become a common, if not unfortunate, sight in the country. It was in one such refugee camp, while working as a medical aid volunteer, that I had my first exposure to third-world medicine. It was this exposure, coupled with the desire to help others who had brought me here in the first place, that sparked my interest in medicine and would set me on the path that would dominate the rest of my life.
My volunteer work over the next years took me to far-flung, and medically underserved areas of the globe including protest ridden Egypt, Israel, and earthquake-ravished Turkey in 1986, and to politically unstable Thailand and China in 1989. While in China, I was caught up in the emotion-turned-violence of the Tiananmen Square protests in May and June of 1989, creating memories that have become permanently engrained in my mind. During my travels to these unstable countries, I witnessed the unfortunate atrocities and destruction that too often occurred during these periods of such profound unrest, leaving the fragile health care systems of these countries decimated and allowing disease and death to become rampant. During these travels, which were at a very idealistic period of my life, I had the occasion to be in conflict myself with some of the events that I witnessed. Such idealism and my unrealistic thinking that justice must prevail lead me to me being arrested on more than one occasion, most often for taking photographs during these military crackdowns, and spending some time in jail before being forcibly told to leave the country.
After recovering from my Middle East and Far East ordeals in 1986, and 1989, my volunteer work took me to the Amazonas region of Brazil and Guyana in the early to mid 90s. Those ten years also saw my love for the entire field of medicine, in addition to art and foreign cultures to grow by leaps and bounds. During that time, I obtained my first university degree in French as a Second Language, with minors in French Literature and Fine Art from Laval University in Quebec. This was followed by my Bachelor of Science degree from McGill University, and the initiation of my Masters Degree in Neuroanatomy and Neuroscience also at McGill, before entering Medicine in 1992. In 1996, while working intensively with the non-profit medical aid group, Queens Medical Outreach in Kingston, I graduated with my Doctorate of Medicine from Queens. During my work at Queen’s, I was privileged to work with a great many people including Dr. D. Zoutman, Dr. T. Tiwari and Dr. C. Charles all of whom encouraged me to continue my dedication to third-world medicine.
In the intervening seventeen years, I have continued my desire to provide essential medical services to underserved and impoverished areas – this time, in my own country. While practicing medicine in west central Canada, I frequently took trips to the Northwest Territories, Newfoundland and Labrador to provide essential medical services to these remote areas. I have focused my must recent efforts on servicing the native Canadians and other impoverished peoples of these areas. Though familial obligations and other events in my life have restricted the time available for this passion currently, I do plan to increase my work in the Canada’s north again in the near future.
My current work at Bow Valley Dermatology in Canmore Alberta focuses on the prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of medical skin diseases with particular emphasis on pre-cancer, skin cancer, acne and post-acne scarring. Skin cancer is particularly prevalent in this area due to multiple factors including a large percentage of people with fairer skin types (origin Great Britain, northern Europe, Australian and New Zealand), an extremely active outdoor lifestyle (skiing, hiking, climbing in the winter, hiking, biking, golf and climbing in the summer), in addition to the higher altitude.
The clinic and myself in particular, Dr. Paul Lubitz, also take pride in the commitment to the education of patients and future doctors alike. Bow Valley Dermatology places an emphasis on knowledge as a means of prevention by allowing its physicians to spend increased time in direct communication with patients in order to help them understand the circumstances surrounding their particular and unique medical situation. Bow Valley Dermatology has also taken an active involvement – through rotations and electives – in the training of medical students and Family Medicine residents in the areas of core dermatology and dermatosurgery.
Almost three decades have passed since my experience in Sudan first motivated me to help the underserved and impoverished. The years since then have shown me that providing essential medical services to these peoples and areas and to people in general is one of my true callings in life. It’s my goal to continue helping and educating these populations for many decades to come.