From all of us at Musa Masala, we send our love and biggest hugs and unending gratitude to the family and friends of Dr. Paul Auerbach. Paul left us last week, after a year’s battle with a brain tumor. Battle he did to the end, facing his future and walking right up to it. Few have a life as amazingly successful as Paul did, and few have truly changed the world for the better as Paul did.

For a measure of Paul’s accomplishments you can read our story on Enviromedics here or his post on COVID-19 here. There is just too much to share in one post. At his memorial service, they said his resume was 56 pages long!! Here, we are going to let you know a bit about our connection to Paul and how he influenced us and mentored our work.

Paul with Mike McLaughlin and Megan Rand at the Masters of Wilderness Medicine Conference in Stowe, Vermont 2019

Dr. Tatiana Havryliuk, Musa Masala vice president:

Paul was an ideas man and also got things done. During our trip to the Wongchhu Sherpa Memorial Hospital in 2018, it was incredible to see him in action. He was making plans, attending meetings, sharing his many stories and taking on new projects (those being myself and Musa Masala). He offered to mentor me while I struggled with developing my career in wilderness medicine in NYC: Do you need some of my books for your courses? Why don’t you send your residents to Nepal? Let’s make it happen! And it did. Paul was also so incredibly dedicated to helping Musa Masala grow. His advice and support were invaluable. Even while he was facing his grim diagnosis, he chose to help us fundraise for the hospital.

It was humbling to see how much Dr. Paul touched the lives of the Nepalis we met while on the trip. Their love and respect for him and the immense gratitude were evident in every interaction.  I have learned so much from Paul about how to be a leader, a mentor and a good person.

Lakpa Sherpa, chairperson of the Himalayan Yokpu Foundation & Wongchhu Peak Promotion:

In Memory of Late Uncle Paul. I’ve been looking after my father’s business and his dream project after his death. Thank you for allowing me to write some words about Dr. Paul S. Auerbach. With a heavy heart, I must admit we’ve lost one of our guardians. I was deeply influenced by the personality of Dr. Paul. My father, the late Mr. Wongchhu Sherpa, used to remember a few of his friends who believed in his dream and Dr. Paul was one of them.  His contribution and tireless effort for the betterment of Nepalese is unforgettable. His advice, ideas, suggestions and the art of leadership will always be retained in our organizations.

I met Uncle Paul for the first time in 2012 with my father. Since the first meeting, he guided us like a parent. Dr. Paul was very close with me and our institution. He used to visit Nepal once a year for social work and to trek. He was the one of those who taught my father to dream for a better society.

Dr. Paul had started a medical camp in collaboration with Stanford University, the USA in  Tapting, Solukhumbu, Nepal. This is the same place where a 15-bed hospital is being built in memory of Late Mr Wongchhu. Since the people of Tapting did not have access to proper basic health services, Dr. Paul, Dr. Eric and Dr. Luanne, along with my father, decided to build a hospital in Tapting.

Unfortunately, my father died from colon cancer in 2015. While we were going through the pain of losing a parent, Dr. Paul, Dr. Eric and Dr. Luanne stood up to build a hospital in his memory. They were the ones who always looked after us. They were real examples of friends to my father.

While most of the builders were ignoring the need to build a hospital in such a remote place, Brihat Developers and Builders, which is owned by Mr. Om Rajbhandary, took on the responsibility of constructing the hospital building. Luckily, Mr. Om is a good friend of to Dr. Paul.

As time went on, we moved ahead and the hospital is now ready to serve people. Following the progress, several individuals got connected with us.  Wilderness Medical Society (WMS), Musa Masala, Everest ER, Dr. Eric Johnson, Dr. Luanne Freer, Renita Fonseca, Michael McLaughlin, Tatiana Havryliuk and many others are working tirelessly for the success of this project. We had a plan to inaugurate the hospital this fall with the presence of everyone, but unfortunately Dr. Paul left us early. However, we’ll be missing him.

Dr. Paul has always been supportive. He improvised our way of doing business and worked endlessly for the success of Wongchhu Sherpa Memorial Hospital. In recognition of his contribution and support, we at Wongchhu Peak Promotion and Himalayan Yokpu Foundation are planning for some work through which he would always be remembered.

On behalf of our organization and associated members, we would like to express our heartfelt sympathies to his loved ones. May his eternal soul rest in peace. Also, I would extend my immense gratitude to Dr. Eric, Dr. Luanne, Wilderness Medical Society, Everest ER, Musa Masala, Stanford University and everyone associated with us. 

We miss you, Dr Paul. Thank you.

Tea house magic tricks with Paul (He actually did get the cork out!)

Michael McLaughlin, Musa Masala president:

I wrote the following piece for the Wilderness Medicine Magazine.

Morning was peacefully passing on our quiet mountaintop as we stared out at Mt Everest, not so far off, but yeah, not quite so close. Suddenly it disappeared in a cloud of dust as two helicopters descended practically on top of our heads at over 14,000 ft above Tengboche.

Paul laughed as we rolled around trying to retrieve the gas cans that had been blown over the side of the mountain/hill. We needed that gas for our flight! Tourists had landed for lunch wearing oxygen masks from Kathmandu; they could not be bothered with us or our gear.

When Lakpa Sherpa, Phula Sherpa, myself and Paul finally got our chance to fly down the valley, Paul snapped photos of us and was completely unaffected by all the commotion and his dust-covered friends. 

Lakpa and Paul after getting dusted on the way to the hospital

This was the Paul Auerbach that started the WMS? Wrote everything you need to know about chigger bites and avalanches? After we landed, we went straight up to the Wongchhu Sherpa Memorial Hospital site.

Last time I was there, my tent was where the main building now stands. Paul met everyone and was going over the plans. We filmed him talking about the hospital while wearing an outlandish outfit. Somehow he made it work. While he may have had eclectic fashion taste, he knew how to talk to the camera.  Afterwords, he hiked with the Musa crew as we told him our vision. He seemed to jump in with both feet! Boom, Paul is here! How can I support you? 

Paul, complete with extravagant outfit, looking over the construction of the Wongchhu Sherpa Memorial Hospital; Paul with Mr. Om Rajbhandary

That afternoon we met the builder of the hospital, Om Rajbhandary, who worked tirelessly together with Paul, Luanne, Eric and the team from Himalayan Yokpu Foundation, to make this project come to fruition. Greatness meeting greatness. What a lesson. In one day, we saw what a person is capable of when they have the knowledge, will and courage to move forward.

You could go on for pages, because each moment was unique to Paul; you felt it. An enormous help and mentor to Musa Masala, we talked for over an hour earlier this year and I shook realizing how much he was facing. He chose to continue helping us, the hospital, and others while knowing what was coming. What a magnificent life. 

This is a video clip from the WMS trek in 2018. After visiting the Wongchhu Sherpa Memorial Hospital in Khamding, we were trekking to the town of Phaplu when we stopped for the night on a hillside with a beautiful view. After Paul and I (Mike) put our tents together, he played Andrea Bocelli’s “Con Te Partirò,” as we sat and took it all in.