Parenting Times’ own Dr. Paul Roumeliotis has been helping young families around the world access health information for decades – and has no plans to stop
Children’s health needs have not changed very much over the years, but certainly, the way health information is communicated – quickly, widely and accurately – has.
A pioneer in children’s health communications, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis has written about thousands of topics, from accident prevention to how nurturing in very early childhood can make a difference in a person’s health, well-being and even prosperity as an adult. But perhaps humorously, the two most common questions he gets from parents have remained just that for the last 30 years – common.
People want to know why their children are always sick, and what to do about a picky eater, says the Ottawa-based pediatrician. He shares these answers (and more) with millions of people all over the world, something he finds incredibly rewarding.
“I enjoy taking care of children and talking to their parents/caregivers,” says Dr. Paul. “However, I find it limits how many families I can educate about child health and wellness. After all, you can only see a finite number of kids per day in a typical pediatric practice setting.” By creating content on multiple formats accessible to parents and caregivers, he is able to help get accurate child health and wellness information out to the masses. “Clearly, this is not possible with typical day-to-day clinical practice,” he says.
Known simply as Dr. Paul, the single moniker is somewhat indicative of the man behind the advice, the articles and the television and radio appearances: he’s practical and credible, but also down-to-earth, friendly, warm, immediately familiar – and as a contributor with an inexhaustible expertise – is instantly recognizable to Parenting Times readers and parents in Ottawa and beyond.
“I really do not consider myself a celebrity although I get recognized often,” says the 61-year-old father of two. The doctor is surprisingly low-key, starting every morning with a cup of coffee with his wife Diana, a newspaper, the radio, and their dog, Leo. “I just see myself as someone who is devoted to sharing vital credible, comforting and evidence-based health and wellness information widely.”
As both an accomplished media developer and producer and a respected medical expert, Dr. Paul (currently the medical officer of health and chief executive officer of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit) has revolutionized health communications by bridging the gap between the two professions. He is the first-ever pediatrician to have his own website, which he hosts at drpaul.com.
Parents and caregivers will also recognize Dr. Paul through his twice-monthly appearances on CTV Morning Live for the last decade.
“The content is timely, important and useful, all delivered with warmth and intelligence,” says John Rogers, a senior account executive at CTV/Bell Media. He calls Dr. Paul “a regular guy” despite also being “an innovator, entrepreneur, educator, philanthropist with more letters after his name than I’d ever seen.
“I immediately liked him because he always spoke his mind without sounding pompous,” remembers Rogers, who has been advising Dr. Paul on traditional and digital/mobile media for the past 10 years. “Everything that came out of his mouth made sense to me because there was no affectation about him. I believe Dr. Paul is reforming health care single-handedly. The fact that he’s human and a genuinely nice man allows him to speak to an audience about health and humanity with ease. He forms an instant connection with his audience.”
Dr. Paul has lived through the evolution of the ever-shifting media landscape, which has changed the way he’s worked and disseminates information over the years.
“Early on in my career I became very aware, and in fact, immersed in the emerging digital technologies and clearly saw/predicted how they would tremendously change the face of communications, particularly in health and more specifically, child health and parenting issues,” says Dr. Paul.
His content went from local via the-then traditional formats including radio, television and print to online in 1995, allowing him to go international nearly overnight.
Of course, the arrival of broadband, streaming technologies and the convergence of many media now offers a wide variety of channels, says Dr. Paul. “The advent of social media is another way to interact directly with the audience.”
His favourite medium is the Internet. “(It) allows me to provide a 24-7, instant, on-demand and easily accessible virtual child health and wellness information library to parents and child caregivers worldwide,” he says.
His first book, Baby Comes Home, a staple in new parents’ arsenals, was the fruit of 25 years work, consisting of a collection of articles and programs that he’s written over the last quarter century.
“I initially had an idea to release a book for the first few weeks, then it went to the first six months, then the first year and finally covering the first important 18 months,” he says. In addition to proper nutrition and immunization, Dr. Paul covers the importance of tender loving care and the prevention of accidental injury.
The book links the science of early child/brain development and the effect of TLC during the first two years of life in long-term health and psychological consequences and success many decades later.
“It was very clear that lack of bonding and nurturing in babies can result in long-term psychological and mental conditions,” says Dr. Paul. “It is now apparent that this neglect can exacerbate or even cause chronic physical illness such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome even decades later. In addition, the aspects of a child’s development that are interfered with play a role in a child’s future learning and socializing skills, and ultimately their ability to reach their full potential as adults. Investing in a child’s early support not only assures proper mental, emotional, and psychological development at the time, but indeed is a form of chronic disease prevention,” he adds.
In his book, he also discusses injury prevention – the leading cause of death and hospitalization in children which is mostly preventable – both inside and outside the home.
In addition to his writing, Dr. Paul also owns an Ottawa-based communications company, Autograph Communications Inc., which grew out of the Montreal record label that he started in the late 1980s. A one-stop health communications company, Autograph takes on work for a variety of organizations and companies.
After wearing so many hats, the public health leader wants to move back to his first love – his Dr. Paul content – and his weekly national radio show and podcast, Child Health Matters with Dr. Paul. He also wants to work on a TV program, expand his column distribution/syndication, release a second edition of Baby Comes Home in a few other languages, and promote his upcoming book on vaccinations.
Through this, he hopes to connect with parents, caregivers and children.
“I love what I do and want to continue as long as I can,” he says.
A professional drummer, Dr. Paul played music to finance his way through medical school. He recorded his first album in 1977, started his own record company, producing artists and marketing and distributing records and videos worldwide, and in 1987, he signed an exclusive distribution deal with RCA (BMG) Records.
The education of Dr. Paul
Dr. Paul grew up in Montreal and studied at McGill University. Certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, he earned his medical degree in 1983 and went on to train as a pediatrician at the Montreal Children’s Hospital from 1983 to 1987. He also holds a Masters of Public Health Degree from The Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore, Maryland, where he is an associate faculty member. In 2013, Dr. Paul obtained an advanced management diploma from the Harvard Business School. In February 2018, he was awarded the Canadian Certified Physician Executive designation by the Canadian Society of Physician Leaders and the Canadian Medical Association.
The founder and director of the Montreal Children’s Hospital’s Asthma Centre and Pediatric Consultation Centre, Dr. Paul is also a longtime lecturer on asthma and other pediatric issues to parents’ organizations and health professionals across North America and Europe. He’s made huge strides in the field – because the successful treatment of asthma is so dependent on home monitoring and control, Dr. Paul long ago saw this field as one where improved patient education could have a tremendous impact. Thanks to his work, the Asthma Centre at the Montreal Children’s Hospital has sustained an exceptional success rate, and has been used as a model for other asthma clinics nationwide.