Paul Russell, MD, FAAP     1953 - 2018
I always answer calls from other doctors. When the phone lit up with an unfamiliar area code I stepped into the other room to answer it. It was Dr. John Fankhauser, former resident, then Chief Resident, then Medical Director, and then our hero in Liberia for six years. I knew he was back in the states because I had gotten a call from Dr. Russell about someone they were interviewing that was the most honest, ethical, forthright...well it went on and of course Dr. Fankhauser was the interviewee. Then the air left the room when he told me that Dr. Russell had not lived through a heart attack. I know he said something after that and I let him know about the interview process Dr. Russell had shared. I don't remember breathing as the air was sucked out of the room.
 
(From Left) Dr. Paul Russell and Dr. Christopher Landon.  
 
Twenty eight years had passed since Dr. Russell came up to the clinic at 3400 Loma Vista, still 2 by 4's and plastic sheeting and saw what I saw. We worked side by side, took call every other night, and learned from specialists who came up from Los Angeles who had literally written the books we had read. We cared for those patients between their clinics, and their families. In his second year I asked Dr. Russell to take on a project, any project, that bothered him, so that he could learn about health care financing, school nurses, public health, non-profit organizations, and the community. By his fourth year he had secured a million dollar grant that became Healthy Families Ventura, uniting all those because child abuse was not acceptable and there were ways to prevent it, instead of reacting to it. This went on to Perinatal Substance in the midst of hundreds of babies exposed to drugs, developing a Child Death Review Team that uncovered the opioid epidemic and the deaths in children and adolescents half a decade before the world began to notice. In June of 1993 he assumed the position of Medical Director of Children's Medical Services. He remained a pediatric consultant to PDC and was always welcome. When word got out that he was having a night clinic it was always full and every patient and parent listened to and cared for. From January of 1997 to January of 2000 he became Medical Director of Blue Cross of California State Sponsored Programs. There he pioneered programs in asthma education and care for substance abused infants. And learned health care financing as another tool to improve the health care of children and their families.
 
Dr. Russell was always available to me for a call. That stretched a quick minute into a half hour as we compared strategies, his now the superior and informed by his experience. The child is father to the man. He would always give a kind nod to some pithy uninterpretable phrase that had stuck. We would talk children and I was afraid we would both explode with our pride.
 
Eventually I remembered to breathe again. To breathe in what has now become silence. And to breathe out the caring song that was the life of Dr. Paul Russell.
 
Breathe.
 
Submitted by Dr. Christopher Landon.   
Memorial Service
 
A Memorial mass and Celebration of Paul's life will be held on Friday, July 27th at 11 AM.
 
St. Patrick's Catholic Church 
   
 
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on July 6, 2018 
   
Paul Russell
April 6, 1953 - June 14, 2018
San Jose and Canoga Park
 
Dr. Paul Michael Russell passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on June14th, 2018. Paul was dearly loved by so many and his death has been difficult for all to conceive. He was healthy, joy-filled and vibrant up until the moment he left us. 
Paul was born April 6,1953 into a large and loving family in Van Nuys, CA. He attended Notre Dame High School, graduated from the University of Irvine before attending University of Oregon for graduate school and Oregon Health and Science University in Portland for Medical School. Paul specialized in Pediatrics and completed his residency at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) in 1987. He began his clinical services in Pediatric Emergency Medicine at CHLA and ensued upon a career life that would focus on volunteerism, advocacy and caring for the underserved. Paul moved to Ojai in 1990 with his first wife, where they raised their two children, Mackenzie and Matt. There, Paul joined Ventura County Medical Center and earned the reputation among hundreds of patients and families as a champion for children. He worked tirelessly in the Public Health Department as Maternal-Child Medical Director and Director of California Children's Services (CCS) for children with special needs. He was passionate about health education focused on the prevention of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and providing services for high-risk families and children. His continuous, compassionate and authentic relationship building among families and patients was extraordinary. In 2013, he and wife, Maryellen and youngest step-daughter, Grace, moved to San Jose on a "grand adventure" (as Paul termed it) to work as the Medical Director of Ambulatory Care and Community Health Services at Valley Medical Center. Paul excelled as an effective leader and trailblazer with an understanding of the imminent need for Health System Model changes, most especially within the publicly funded health care system. He strongly advocated for paradigm shifts in the primary care delivery model with improved efficiency that emphasized upstream prevention of future high utilizers (homeless, addicted, traumatized). Paul was a man of incredible vision with hopes of developing models of care that had physicians and health providers more visible and providing focused care in neighborhoods and within the community. He was currently involved in multiple projects where his innovation and commitment were instrumental in expanding services for the homeless, foster youth and those suffering with emotional trauma. He and his teams of dedicated colleagues had most recently established outpatient clinics for the LBGTQ and Transgender communities.  
Paul loved playing basketball, was a lifelong fan of UCLA basketball, and, for the past decade, of the Golden State Warriors. Little did we realize the joy we took from this most recent GSW championship would be his last. Paul's favorite time of year was March Madness. He loved the years of coaching his children in rec-league basketball, and in recent years, watching games and following his son, Matt, playing professional ultimate frisbee. 
Paul was an avid golfer (since 7th grade) and would have played everyday if his commitment to family and work were not so great. He would joke about wanting to meet his end as an old man walking out onto the greens as portrayed in the movie: The Legend of Baggar Vance. He backpacked throughout his life and led many trips with his children and their friends, teaching them about the beauty of spending time in nature. He loved working on the yard and building projects at home with his wife and having friends and family over for BBQs with chicken or salmon. He treasured time with any or all of his 5 siblings and their families and he and Maryellen have considered it a privilege to have his 92 y/o mom living with them this past year. Paul loved music (especially the Allman Brothers) and went on as many road trips as he could fit in.  
Most of all, he loved sitting on the family's outside porch with those he loved -telling and listening to stories.

To say that Paul, his laughter and his goodness, will be missed by his colleagues, patients, friends and most especially his family, is an understatement. He is survived by his wife, Maryellen, his children, Mackenzie and Matt, his step-children: Dan/Molly, Katie/Pete, David, Rebecca and Grace; his grandchildren: Noa, Isla, Liam and Ruthie; his mom, Frances "Midge", siblings: Anne/Joe, Mike/Carolyn, Joan/Steve, MaryKay, Tom/Carey, brother-in-law: Fr. Tim Dyer, his beloved Aunt Jean, along with loving nieces, nephews and many (many!) cousins.  
Memorial donations may be made to: A Place Called Home ( www.apch.org) where Paul and Maryellen hoped to one day serve as providers of health care or to Homeboy Industries. Both of these non-profits' missions and outcomes were highly respected by Paul.