Dr Duane Gubler shares his research with locals near Calcutta, India, undated photo | Photo courtesy of Duane Gubler, St. George News
ST. GEORGE- Santa Clara native Dr. Duane Gubler slipped a gold medal engraved with a crescent moon and five stars on his head in June. The medal symbolized the honorary citizenship given to her by Halimah Yacob, President of Singapore, for her monumental contributions to the city-state’s importance in global infectious disease research.
“I was touched by that,” Gubler said. “It was hard to believe I was worthy of it.”
Eventually retired and settled in St. George, Gubler’s journey to earning this award took him and his family around the world and back – literally.
Following his family’s traditions, Gubler grew up raising cattle with his brother near Santa Clara, raising cattle in the mountains of Pine Valley during the summer and in the southern hills of St. George during the winter. . Gubler met his wife, Bobbie, in Santa Clara High School, and they married in 1958, when they were 18.
Originally planning to make a living as a cowboy, Gubler found he wasn’t making enough money ranching on his own. He decided to go to college in Cedar City, where he found a mentor who guided him to study medicine. Gubler completed her bachelor’s degree in Logan, Utah, and her master’s degree at the University of Hawaii. He eventually got his doctorate. from Johns Hopkins University, where he studied tropical medicine and disease ecology.
“It was the 1960s,” Gubler said. “At that time, the United States Surgeon General and many infectious disease experts said the war on infectious disease had been won. We had new antibiotics, new vaccines, new insecticides. But I held on, even though my professor at Hopkins advised me to change fields and study chronic diseases.
After graduating from John Hopkins, Gubler, his wife and their two young boys moved to Calcutta, India at the height of the Cold War. Calcutta was under a Marxist-Maoist government during those years, sometimes making life for the Gublers extremely difficult.
“Going to Kolkata back then was like stepping back 200 years in time,” Gubler said. “The whole area was chaos. It was a real culture shock for us. About every six months we left Calcutta and went to Bangkok or Singapore to find some semblance of civilization.
The Gubler family still had at least a week’s supply of food and water for the regular government strikes in the city that would cut off public electricity.
On one occasion, Gubler said, he and his wife attended a wedding ceremony of a U.S. Navy man and a young local woman, and more than 100,000 local men surrounded the block in anger. and held the congregation captive for six hours.
Gubler’s main study focus in Calcutta was a disease called elephantiasis, usually caused by a blood parasite that passed through the mosquito, causing lymph to accumulate in the human body to enormous and painful proportions. He has worked in laboratories, clinical studies and in the field in many poor communities, conducting research and providing aid.
“The paper that I wrote from those studies was actually used at Harvard for many years as a case study for students studying tropical diseases, epidemiology,” Gubler said. “That’s really what launched me in my career.”
While in Calcutta, Bobbie Gubler joined a women’s organization where she met and worked alongside Mother Teresa to package medicine for Indian citizens in need.
The Gubler family returned to Hawaii in 1971 and helped build the Oahu School of Medicine. Dengue fever was reintroduced to the Pacific region around this time, reemerging from its height during World War II. Gubler was the first to fight dengue fever, moving from parasitology to virology, although he was already very familiar with the pathogens spread by mosquitoes.
“I spent most of the first half of the 1970s traveling all over the islands of the South Pacific and the West Pacific, studying the epidemic,” he said. “We have developed new methods in Hawaii to isolate dengue virus from human material. It took me to Indonesia, where dengue fever was an emerging problem, killing many children. I wanted to put the new methods into practice in Indonesia.
Again, the Gublers moved their family to a new land, Indonesia, where they spent the next five years. After that, the family moved to Illinois, Puerto Rico, Colorado and Hawaii, following Gubler’s college career-building programs and working with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, known as the CDC.
Gubler still traveled frequently to Asia, consulting with colleagues in Indonesia and neighboring countries. In 2000, Singapore began inviting top medical universities to the country to help establish a biotechnology and biomedical research center in Singapore.
“Hopkins went there, and they didn’t last long,” Gubler said. “Oxford came in. They didn’t last long. But Duke University was contracted to build a new medical school that would train medical scientists.
Duke contacted Gubler, and after careful consideration, he and his wife left their home in Hawaii and moved to Singapore to build a world-class medical facility in 2007. Gubler led the Emerging Infectious Diseases program at the faculty of Medicine from Duke in Singapore. , which has been instrumental in the study and development of a COVID-19 vaccine, Gubler said.
Gubler expressed his deep love and admiration for Singapore.
“Singapore today is not just a first world country, but one of the wealthiest countries in the world,” he said. “It’s probably the strongest economically (country) in the world, and probably the most beautiful city you’ll go to. It’s the safest and most technologically advanced city in the world – an amazing place.
A prolific academic writer and researcher, Gubler has published over 400 peer-reviewed scientific articles, as well as three published books on dengue fever. Among his accolades, Gubler received an honorary doctorate from Southern Utah University, a Rotary International Service Above Self Award, and recognition for helping with the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
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