Dr. Paul Roumeliotis has been a trusted source of wisdom and information for decades. He is a Pediatrician & Medical Officer of Health/CEO of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit in Canada. Doctor Paul loves his career and wants parents to stay informed. On top of it all, he has been creating informative posts and videos for families before social media was around. We asked Doctor Paul what his journey has been like and how he has always been successful at connecting people with information for decades.
QUESTION: Dr. Paul, tell us about why you chose to become a pediatrician.
DR.PAUL ANSWERS: I have always loved children and believed that communication/education is a very important part of being a doctor. Early on in medical school, I realized that this was particularly relevant in pediatric practice. Unlike treating adults, we are dealing with parents and rely on them for obtaining information. In many cases it involves administering treatment. I refer to this as “medicine by proxy”. I really enjoy this aspect of pediatrics. It fits in with my zeal for empowering parents and child caregivers with credible, proactive, practical and easy-to-understand information. This is so they can be as comfortable as possible in taking care of their kids. This is what I mean when I coined the phrase: ”Knowledge is Comfort”.
QUESTION: Your personal website, Dr. Paul is one of the first of its kind. Tell us when you started our site.How important was it to reach an audience and spread knowledge on children’s health?
DR.PAUL ANSWERS: I started writing and creating video and audio programs and articles before the internet was available during the early 1990’s. In 1994, when the internet was in its infancy, I realized its huge potential and became one of the first pediatricians in the world to have a web site. DR.PAUL’s CHILD HEALTH AND WELLNESS INFO SITE.
The Start of Something Big
Initially, I was frustrated because it was on dial-up modems. this was long before high-speed and streaming was possible. The information was limited to text and simple pictures. The site first launched the site in 1995, I wanted it to be an easily searchable and practical “online child health and wellness encyclopedia/library.” I created sections that I thought would make sense. This includes: Childhood Illnesses and Conditions, Newborn Issues, Parenting/Behavioral Issues, The Asthma Corner, Tip of the day, Adolescent Issues, Breastfeeding, Injury Prevention and Immunization.
With time, I added topics to each section and continue to do so. For example, I added COVID in 2020. I also created a handy Fact Sheet page with printable one-pagers. I envisioned could be used by health professionals, schools and day cares as handouts to parents and child caregivers.
Ask Doctor Paul
I also created an Ask Dr.Paul section and it soon came to a point that I was receiving hundreds of questions weekly. Many of these questions were similar. I was not able to answer them all individually. So, I added the answers to the ASK DR.PAUL library. I would answer the most common questions and post a new 500-word article every week. This built up the library to hundreds of articles. As I added topics, the site grew to its current state and I keep adding and updating it.
In fact, I have now added a new section that I call “DR.PAUL’s Snapshots”. In this section, accessed by the DR.PAUL ANSWERS button, I have indexed questions that I have answered in a few sentences (some are my audio responses). I have collected hundreds of these snapshots and I am slowly adding them. In many cases I have answered them or there is an article or section elsewhere my site The search utility help parents find what they are looking for..
Educating Before Search Engines
As one of the first of its kind, my site pre-dated Yahoo, Google, Explorer and Chrome as well as social media. It was ranked highly by Google and literally hundreds of organizations linked back to my content. Sadly, my site got hacked a few years ago and I had to rebuild it. As a result I have lost the rankings and the many back links and directory listings. However, I am determined to continue with offering this resource, really my life’s work, to parents worldwide.
Today you are doing so much to help communities. Tell us what you have been up to.
DR.PAUL ANSWERS: Following my zeal for health communications and prevention, in 2006, I decided to become a local Public Health leader. I am the the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) and CEO of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU). Although different from clinical pediatric practice, public health is focused on prevention, health promotion and early child development. These are keys to life-long health, wellness and prosperity. As a pediatrician, this also aligned well with our anticipatory guidance approach to parents. These issues include nutrition, injury prevention, and immunization. This really fit well with my belief. It also offered me the opportunity to implement my vision of health communications within a public health agency.
Consequently, I put together a full in-house communications/production team and studio. This was the only one of its kind in a public health agency. Over the last 15 years our health unit has produced thousands of video, audio, print and digital projects, and TV/radio spots. Some of which were in partnership with national agencies. These include the Canadian Pediatric Society, Immunize Canada, the Canadian Primary Care Information Network and the Canadian Public Health Association. Producing all of our content in both official languages, our YouTube channel has received more than 4 million views.
In my role of MOH, I am responsible for regional public health program delivery,administration and innovative public health communications messaging and programs. Additionally, over the last 15 years, I have championed the importance of early childhood development through the public health lens of the social determinants of health by advocating for support of families of young babies. Supporting early childhood development is key in order for babies to develop and grow and prosper as optimally as possible. As the only Medical Officer of Health in Ontario who is also a pediatrician, I sit on various provincial tables the support maternal health and child health and development.
A Local Public Health Leader
As a local public health leader, I have also led the local response during 2 pandemics, including H1N1 in 2021. My COVID-19 pandemic journey began in February 2020. I co-ordinated the local response in partnership with PHAC, Canadian Armed Forces, Red Cross & local partners during the Cornwall operation to quarantine 250 Canadian cruise passengers. Following this successful operation, I became the local leader/voice of the pandemic response in Eastern Ontario which continues to this day.
This has been an unprecedented time of continual communication/interaction with multiple stakeholders. These include elected officials at 3 levels, the public, media, the local health care system, enforcement agencies, community partners including school boards, and regional chambers of commerce. Provincially, I sit on several provincial tables that advise the government on COVID-19-related issues. Needless to say, I have given hundreds of interviews and press conferences over this time. I believe that communication is key for people to understand the many twists and turns that COVID has given us.
Aside from my MOH position, I also sit on several boards that also allow me to advocate for early childhood development support. I sit on the United Way East Ontario Board and I contribute to one of their priority areas, “All That Kids Can Be“ with a focus on early Child development.
I am also chair of the Board of Families Canada. Again, this is in support of vulnerable families in Canada. I produced and hosted their podcast series : “Supporting Families: Latest Science, Best Practices Podcast”
QUESTION: What are some common concerns new parents have today?
DR.PAUL ANSWERS: Obviously COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccination is a top concern today. We have spent a lot of effort on answering parents’ top concerns about the virus as well as the COVID vaccine for children. This includes the recent Health Canada approval for children younger than 5 years of age.
However, notwithstanding the pandemic, parents continue to have concerns about their baby’s nutrition growth and development. Especially during the first 2 years. For older children, many concerns are behavioral. This includes temper tantrums, sleep problems, picky eaters, school readiness and school refusal.
QUESTION: What are some common concerns of pregnant persons today?
DR.PAUL ANSWERS: I think that expectant parents have concerns about their babies even before they are born. They want to ensure that the pregnancy is normal and that the delivery goes smoothly. Parents are also concerned about bringing baby home. They want to ensure the best home environment including getting a car seat, a crib , home safety. If this is not their first baby, then they are concerned about how siblings(or even the family pet) will react to new baby coming home.
How has communication between pediatricians and parents changed over the years?
DR.PAUL ANSWERS: While for the most part, parental concerns about their children’s health and wellness have remained unchanged. However, the way that parents obtain their information has transformed dramatically thanks to the internet. Of course for very specific issues, parents still need to speak to their pediatrician/healthcare provide. Even that dynamic has changed with the availability of texting and virtual sessions. For general information parents now turn to the internet, where there is a plethora of health information and of course social media platforms where they can exchange information amongst themselves.
One of my words of caution, and I stated this back in the late 1990’s was that parents need to be aware of who the source of information is. Is it a credible pediatrician or organization? Or is it a site disguised as an information site trying to sell you a product? Despite the information overload of today, I still think that the internet provides a valuable and unprecedented service to parents, in that they can easily access information and consult/share/discuss with others in similar situations virtually anytime and from anywhere!
The only additional precaution I can advise is that parents should be aware of the sources of their information and NOT rely on the internet to make a diagnosis or treatment plan for themselves or their family.
QUESTION: Tell us about your recent distinguished service award.
DR.PAUL ANSWERS: In June 2022 I was honored to receive the Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alPHa) Distinguished Service Award. The Distinguished Service Award reflects the commitment of the Association of Local Public Health Agencies to recognize the significant contributions made to public health in Ontario by board of health members, health unit staff, and public health professionals. The Award is given to those individuals who have demonstrated exceptional qualities of leadership in their own milieu, achieved tangible results through long service or distinctive acts, and shown exemplary devotion to public health at local and provincial levels.
It is no secret that Dr. Paul has received many awards over the years. Here are some of the many reasons he is a trusted source in Canada.
Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, MD, CM, MPH, FRCP(C), CCPE, AMP Dr. Paul Roumeliotis (“Dr. Paul”) has been the Medical Officer of Health(MOH)/CEO of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) since 2007. He received his medical degree and trained as a pediatrician at McGill University. He holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) Degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. In 2018, he received the Canadian Certified Physician Executive credential designation.
In 2015, he signed an unprecedented multilateral agreement to become Akwesasne’s MOH in both Ontario and Quebec. He has also led many local initiatives including the regional Oxycontin task force (2010). He also led the local health response for flood/fire refugees and asylum seekers.
A true believer of CQI, Dr. Paul led the EOHU to become the first stand-alone public health agency in Canada to be accredited by Accreditation Canada. Provincially, he has participated in numerous tables including the Provincial Council of Maternal and Child Health and co-led the first province-wide public health-LHIN collaboration.
Dr. Paul was COMOH chair during both the H1N1 and the COVID-19 pandemics. In February 2020, he coordinated the local response and media relations during the quarantine of the cruise passengers at NAV CENTRE in Cornwall. Subsequently, he became the local leader/voice of the pandemic response in Eastern Ontario.
During this unprecedented time, of continual communication with elected officials, the public, media, the local healthcare system, enforcement agencies, and multiple community partners. As COMOH chair, he was a member on multiple provincial and regional COVID committees/tables.
One of the First Online Physicians
Complementing his work in public health, Dr. Paul, one of the world’s first online physicians(1995), has also earned recognition as a long-time leader in health communication innovations including co- founding the French Public Health Community of Practice. He is an ardent advocate for improving the social determinants of health, with a particular focus on early childhood development and the life-course perspective.
QUESTION: Are there any new projects or awareness campaigns you are currently working on that you can share?
DR.PAUL Answers: I am involved in several studies/projects. One is as co-investigator in a national project called: “Trajectories of healthy life using public health and primary care interventions in Canada”. This is a part of the Healthy Life Trajectories Initiative . The goal of this 10 year project in Canada is to evaluate whether technology-based care can improve the health of families. This includes before pregnancy (preconception), during pregnancy, and into early childhood, promoting child development, and preventing the development of obesity and chronic diseases.
I am also a lead investigator in a national project entitled “A tailored automated COVID vaccine communication strategy to build primary care providers’ capacity to address vaccine hesitancy among their patients.” This is funded by PHAC as part of the Immunization Partnership Fund. The study tries to identify parental reasons of vaccine hesitancy and in partnership with the Canadian Primary Care Information Network, we create video content and information that addresses hesitancy issues by providing the latest scientific and evidence based information.
We are also partners in another project on vaccine hesitancy that Families Canada is working on.
Dr. Paul and Public Health
Doctor Paul is a person who cares about children. He links communities together. From co-founding the French Public Health Community of Practice to advocating for health of all Canadians, he is truly an exemplary model of public health service.