Dr. George LaBrot was installed as the new Pacific Palisades Club Optimist Club president at a dinner at the Proud Bird restaurant in early October.
“As a service club, we are dedicated to bring out the best in kids in our community,” LaBrot said in his installation remarks.
“We each give time and talents in the spirit of service, and through that we come to appreciate each other and ourselves in a special way. When we are dedicated to service, we become more alive, more self-confident and more lighthearted.”
LaBrot, who spent the first 10 years of his life on a dairy farm in Wisconsin before moving to Illinois, attended Loyola of Chicago as an undergraduate. He then graduated from medical school at the University of Illinois, with the intent of becoming a small-town general practioner.
In 1972, while interning in Oakland, LaBrot met his future wife, Paula, through mutual friends. They married the following year and moved in June to Valdez, Alaska, where he worked.
Although Valdez is a vital oil-exporting port in Alaska, the population is under 4,000, there’s an average of almost 300 inches of snow per year.
“We made it until March, but for a variety of reasons, Valdez was not for us, so we came to Los Angeles,” LaBrot explained.
“Paula was a film editor and could work here.”
The couple lived in Santa Monica until LaBrot finished his internal medicine residency, and pulmonary and critical care fellowships.
They had two children, Ben (born in 1976) and Sky (1981), and moved to Pacific Palisades in 1978.
“Paula started Theatre Palisades Kids in 1982 and ran it for 14 years,” LaBrot said. “She is such a good builder that the program is still on-going.”
Paula received a Community Council Golden Sparkplug Award for her work in 1990.
Meanwhile, LaBrot said, “I wanted a more formal organization through which I could contribute to the community. I joined the Optimist Club for that reason in about 1984.”
LaBrot, the medical director of Sleep at American Wellness and Imaging for the UCLA Medical Group in Santa Monica, is board certified in pulmonary and sleep medicine and critical care.
“Due to the worsening obesity epidemic in America, obstructive sleep apnea was becoming more of a problem for my patients,” LaBrot said, “so in 2007, I added sleep medicine to my other certifications.”
In 1991, LaBrot traveled to India for the first time. “Some friends of ours had previously worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, so I had an introduction and some supplies for her orphanages,” LaBrot said. He worked at the Home for the Dying for a few weeks and several days at an orphanage for brain-damaged children.
“Mother Teresa was hilarious,” LaBrot said. “She had a tremendous sense of humor. I’ve observed, since then, that the more spiritually advanced people become, the funnier they become. I presume that is because they become more light-hearted.”
He remembers Mother Teresa saying “Never fall into the conceit that you are responsible for taking care of your patients, your family or yourself, because you are not. That is God’s job. In Calcutta, I have the Mother House, the Home for the Dying, the leprosarium, and two orphanages. Do you think that I can take care of all that? Of course I cannot! That is God’s job. So never fall into the conceit of thinking that it is your job to take care of your patients, your family, or yourself, because it is not.”
LaBrot remembers her taking a short comedic pause, and adding “It is only your job to ACT like you are taking care of them.”
After that trip, LaBrot and Paula spent vacations in far-flung locations—Sierra Leone, Madagascar, India, Nepal and the jungles of Cambodia—until his two children founded Floating Doctors in 2009.
“My vacation time has been spent with them in Panama and Haiti,” LaBrot said.
Dr. Ben LaBrot brings free acute and pre- ventative health care services to isolated areas, through a traveling medical boat. Sky directs the missions that enable her brother and a staff of volunteers to treat patients. (Visit: floatingdoctors.com).