The Horse­man and the Chess Player

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS - Nancy Gunn, Spe­cial col­lab­o­ra­tion New­port, VT

Ron Ku­bica and Sergey De­vit­skiy bring truly di­verse backgrounds to their shared love: treat­ing pa­tients in the ru­ral North­east King­dom.

Ku­bica, MD, put him­self through col­lege as a sil­ver­smith.

He grew up in New Mex­ico, and as a young doc­tor he spent sev­eral years treat­ing Navajo and Hopi fam­i­lies, and later the Chero­kee in Ok­la­homa, in the In­dian Health Ser­vice. And if you want to know any­thing about horses, Ron’s the man to ask.

Sergey De­vit­skiy, MD, couldn’t have had a more dif­fer­ent up­bring­ing from Ron – Sergey was born in Kursk, Rus­sia. His fa­ther was a colonel in the Soviet army, and young Sergey saw Europe, and the world, from the other side of the Ber­lin Wall. In Amer­ica, he main­tains his Rus­sian love for chess and hockey.

Yet de­spite their back­ground dif­fer­ences, these two Nor­ris Cot­ton Can­cer Cen­ter doc­tors share con­sid­er­able com­mon ground as doc­tors. They’re both highly skilled on­col­o­gists. They’re both per­son­able, self­ef­fac­ing men who im­me­di­ately put peo­ple at ease. They both bring ex­tra­or­di­nary life ex­pe­ri­ences that al­low them to con­nect with the hard-work­ing, plain-spo­ken pa­tients of the North­east King­dom in a bond of shared val­ues. And they both love the com­mu­ni­ties they serve – St. Johns­bury and New­port, VT.

“The peo­ple up here, they re­mind me of Rus­sians,” says Sergey. “They never com­plain. They’re very grate­ful for any­thing you do for them. They’re down to earth, stub­born, and in­de­pen­dent.” He chuck­les for a mo­ment. “And they don’t talk very much.”

“They’re reg­u­lar peo­ple up here with­out any pre­ten­sions,” com­ments Ron. “They’re won­der­ful pa­tients. I’ve worked in clin­ics and I’ve had suc­cess in my ca­reer in med­i­cal part­ner­ships, but outreach medicine is what I love best – tak­ing medicine to peo­ple where they live. That’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant for can­cer pa­tients, many of whom have dif­fi­culty trav­el­ing. That’s why I came here.”

He adds: “There’s great fam­ily sup­port with the pa­tients, and there’s a great med­i­cal sup­port sys­tem within Dart­mouth-Hitch­cock and the Can­cer Cen­ter. When we go to a hospi­tal to see pa­tients, we’re not just go­ing as doc­tors. We bring the Can­cer Cen­ter it­self and all its re­sources to that hospi­tal and to those pa­tients.”

Dres­sage, bam­boo fly rods – and can­cer treat­ment

Dr. Ku­bica un­der­stands the value of bring­ing the best care avail­able any­where to pa­tients and fam­i­lies who live far from ur­ban and subur­ban cen­ters. In ad­di­tion to found­ing clin­ics in Santa Fe, NM, and Nor­man, OK, he has been prac­tic­ing outreach medicine in ru­ral pop­u­la­tions for more than 20 years. In fact, the can­cer prac­tice he es­tab­lished in Santa Fe grew to cover all of north­ern New Mex­ico in its sphere of treat­ment, a ter­ri­tory that in­cludes some of the most re­mote towns and ham­lets in the United States. In Ver­mont, he says, “I’m do­ing what I’ve al­ways done.”

He was born in Chicago but his fa­ther, who worked for Bell & How­ell and taught young pi­lots how to land on air­craft car­ri­ers dur­ing World War II, moved the fam­ily to the South­west af­ter the war. As a young man, Ron ap­pren­ticed to a sil­ver­smith in Al­bu­querque, and through a fam­ily con­nec­tion he was able to buy high qual­ity turquoise from Ne­vada; his jew­elry work sup­ported him all the way through school. (In an amaz­ing small-world co­in­ci­dence, Ron grad­u­ated from the same high school in Farm­ing­ton, NM, that John Mar­shall, MD, who is the ra­di­a­tion on­col­o­gist in the St. Johns­bury Can­cer Cen­ter, grad­u­ated from.)Ron’s ca­reer took him throughout the South­west, and his life be­came in­ter­twined with South­west­ern cul­ture. An early love for horses grew into a life­long pas­sion; even to­day, Ron com­petes in dres­sage.

Two of the prac­tices he founded were ab­sorbed into larger prac­tices, and Ron found him­self spend­ing more time manag­ing and less time prac­tic­ing medicine. Af­ter build­ing a large home near Santa Fe, he says he re­al­ized that “I had reached a place Where I was able to get ev­ery­thing I wanted in life. I had a beau­ti­ful home – it’s used as the home in the ‘Wild­fire’

tele­vi­sion show. I had suc­cess. But what I was miss­ing was what I loved the most, and that’s do­ing outreach medicine.”

So he packed up and headed for north­ern New Eng­land. Why here? “Horses,” he smiles. Woodstock, VT, is one of the cap­i­tals of dres­sage in the US – in fact, it’s where the old­est stil­lop­er­at­ing horse or­ga­ni­za­tion in the coun­try, the Green Moun­tain Horse As­so­ci­a­tion, was founded, and it’s where the Mor­gan breed was first de­vel­oped. The long, quiet win­ters in Ver­mont also af­ford him the time to in­dulge an­other pas­sion, build­ing hand­made bam­boo fly rods. (“The first bam­boo rods were made in Ver­mont, you know.”)

Com­ing here also gave Ron the op­por­tu­nity to re­turn to prac­tic­ing medicine among ru­ral pa­tients and their fam­i­lies. Af­ter work­ing in the North Coun­try for a few years, he and his wife de­cided to make a long-term com­mit­ment to the re­gion and moved from Woodstock to Danville, VT. “The qual­ity of the doc­tors here is ex­ceed­ingly high,” he com­ments. “The peo­ple here are re­ally well served by Dart­mouth and its med­i­cal community. It’s a plea­sure to be part of it.” Moscow-born for­ward. Mean­while, Amer­ica’s pas­time, base­ball, is, he ad­mits, “still a mys­tery to me.”

For Amer­i­cans who might want to bet­ter un­der­stand Rus­sia and what it means to be Rus­sian, Sergey of­fers some sim­ple but ex­cel­lent ad­vice: “Read Chekhov.” But he calls him­self Amer­i­can, and as a ci­ti­zen he has a right to, of course. (Un­der­stand­ing base­ball will come in time.)

Sergey has a per­spec­tive on our coun­try that is also one shared by Ron Ku­bica.

“I love the diver­sity of the United States,” he says. “When I first came here I could not be­lieve it, all the dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple. But what I re­ally no­ticed is that peo­ple here – and this is cer­tainly true where we work in Ver­mont and New Hamp­shire – are re­ally for each other. They have a spirit that is shared. They put their town, their state, and their coun­try ahead of them­selves. They work to­gether. And that’s just how we like to work.”

Af­ter over 25 years of pro­vid­ing can­cer care, North Coun­try Hospi­tal is proud to bring the ex­ten­sive re­sources of Nor­ris Cot­ton Can­cer Cen­ter to the community. This part­ner­ship com­bines the finest med­i­cal care and re­search with the cur­rent staff of car­ing, cer­ti­fied on­col­ogy nurses who have a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence. North Coun­try On­col­ogy’s goal is al­ways to of­fer the best care pos­si­ble to their pa­tients and they are thrilled to wel­come Dr. De­vit­skiy and Dr. Ku­bica to the team

bleak days of the Rev­o­lu­tion.

Be­cause of his fam­ily’s po­si­tion, Sergey was some­what spared from the worst of the hard­ships that came af­ter the Soviet Union col­lapsed in 1991, al­though, he says, “It was very con­fus­ing. Ev­ery­thing changed. Sud­denly there was no coun­try any­more. You won­dered, who’s mak­ing the laws? Who’s in charge? There was very lit­tle time for any­one to get ad­justed. Some peo­ple lost ev­ery­thing.”

At the time, Sergey was in a PhD pro­gram at Kursk State Med­i­cal Univer­sity, con­duct­ing re­search. But his wife’s par­ents had al­ready im­mi­grated to the US, in 1989, and it seemed like bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties lay across the ocean. He and his wife made the huge move in 2000. “My first job was as a tech­ni­cian in a hospi­tal in Bal­ti­more. I didn’t even have a li­cense,” he re­calls. By 2004 he passed his med­i­cal ex­ams in Mas­sachusetts. Putting oth­ers first

“The medicine here is top-notch,” says Sergey. “The doc­tors like to do it all, and they’re very good at it. They de­velop long-term re­la­tion­ships not just with a pa­tient but with the pa­tient’s fam­ily. It’s a won­der­ful way to prac­tice.”

He still car­ries strong mem­o­ries and feel­ings about his na­tive Rus­sia, where his mother and sis­ter still live. He’s a very fine player at Rus­sia’s na­tional game – chess – and he loves to watch hockey, an­other Rus­sian pas­sion. “I am up here with peo­ple who like the Bru­ins, but I have to root for the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals be­cause of, you know, Ovechkin,” he laughs, re­fer­ring to Alex Ovechkin, the great Ron Ku­bica, MD (left), and Sergey De­vit­skiy, MD, share a love of treat­ing pa­tients in the North­east King­dom.

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