October 31, 2023
Shasta County family medicine physician Debra Lupeika, M.D., received the 2023 California Medical Association (CMA) Compassionate Service Award. The award is given annually to the California physician who best exemplifies CMA’s commitment to community and charity care.
Dr. Lupeika is the Family Medicine Program Director at the Shasta Community Health Center (SCHC) where she was instrumental in establishing an accredited family medicine residency program to serve the county’s low-income and underserved populations.
"Because I work at a federally qualified health center and serve the underserved, I thought it was very important to train residents here ... and hopefully inspire them to work with underserved and marginalized communities as well," said Dr. Lupeika. "It's been such a rewarding opportunity for me.”
Dr. Lupeika was also honored for her bravery and dedication to her patients during the ninth-most destructive wildfire in California’s history. In 2018, as the Carr Fire rapidly approached Mercy Hospital in Redding, Dr. Lupeika and the hospital faculty prepared evacuation plans for newborns and hospital-bound patients.
“Serious courage and deep commitment was needed to ensure the safety and well-being of the most vulnerable helpless patients while the fire was heading directly toward the hospital,” said Kristy Bird MaKieve, the Executive Director of North Valley Medical Association and Butte-Glenn Medical Society. “[Dr. Lupeika] and her team held their ground and courageously stayed at the hospital until the hospital was no longer under threat.”
While several physicians in the area went home to evacuate from the fires, Dr. Lupeika organized her residents in the HOPE van, a mobile medical unit, and saw patients in need at Shasta College, where displaced persons gathered.
“Dr. Lupeika personally staffed the mobile medical unit and helped to navigate the system that the Red Cross established, getting care organized and delivered in an expediate manner,” Bird MaKieve said. “She was determined to care for those in need of medical attention.”
Dr. Lupeika has also led, promoted and raised funds for a program called “Helping Babies Breathe,” which allows family medicine residents from the Shasta County Community Health Center and the Mercy Redding Family Practice program to carry out international medical missions. In 2023, she led a trip to Guatemala to train 75 indigenous Mayan midwives in the principles of neonatal resuscitation.
“Dr. Lupeika's compassion and persistence helped us create space and resources to support some international ‘mission’ work in poor underserved countries where infant death rates where extremely high,” said Shasta Community Health Center CEO Dean Germano. “She helped to raise funds for both the travel of residents, faculty, and their families, as well as the teaching materials that are left behind along with the training to sustain learning in those countries.”
“The biggest advice that I would give to residents and future doctors is pursue your passion in medicine whatever that is,” said Dr. Lupeika. “Then work's not work and you enjoy going to work because you love what you're doing."
Learn more about Dr. Lupeika in our video profile.