The Floating Doctors crew is an all-volunteer group of men and women from all walks of life united in their passion for the healing arts and a desire to serve.
Dr. Benjamin LaBrot
Dr. Benjamin La Brot is a native Southern Californian who learned to swim before he could walk. From junior high school until after college, he worked on sport and commercial fishing boats, on the Floating Marine Science Laboratory vessel and in classrooms across southern California for the Los Angeles County Office of Marine Education, and for Pacific Biomarine Laboratories as a research diver. He also qualified as an Emergency Medical Technician, a Handicapped SCUBA Association Dive Buddy for divers with paraplegia, quadriplegia or blindness, and completed a B.S. in Marine Biology (with all pre-med requirements), a B.A. in History, and a Geology Minor from the University of CA, Santa Barbara.
After teaching biology and anatomy for two years, Ben moved to Ireland to study medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons. He was part of a global medicine program and studied with fellow medical students from around the world. Ben interned and worked as a medical doctor in the Irish Health Care System, eventually helping to set up and then run a long term care facility that also provided acute hospital services (which is where Ben fully realized the potential health benefits of focusing on IMPROVING health, rather than just maintaining it).
Throughout his time in Ireland, Ben made private medical missions to Thailand, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Enormous need everywhere he went—in the developed as well as the developing world—combined with the belief that the privilege of becoming a doctor comes with the responsibility for ALWAYS being on-call, wherever you may be in the world, have led Ben to combine his love and knowledge of the sea with his talent for medicine and service to create the Floating Doctors.
Ben says that each successive time he traveled in the developing world, his backpack carried fewer personal items and more medical supplies, and that the most heartbreaking part of doing medicine in the developing world is when the backpack is empty and there are still many people in desperate need. For Dr. Ben, the Southern Wind and his crew of dedicated volunteers is “A much bigger backpack over many thousands of miles; I promised myself I would come back to the developing world with more help, and now I finally have the chance to keep my promise.”
Executive Director of Operations and Galley Coordinator
Sky LaBrot is Ben’s little sister but shoulders a heavy load onboard the Southern Wind! Sky is Director of Operations and Marketing and manages the logistics of the on-’shore clinics. A successful Hollywood restaurant and club opener with a culinary degree–this is not the sort of adventure where you’d expect to find her, but Sky’s skills in negotiation and management and her culinary and nutritional knowledge make her the ideal person to either wear a tool belt, show people in the developing world how to cook healthier meals from locally available ingredients, or organize the thousand and one things that have to happen every day for Floating Doctors to function. Sky believes in the mission and more importantly, in her brother, whom she’s looked up to her entire life.
Sky has a long history of helping her brother Dr. Ben—Sky became SCUBA certified in her early teens and helped Ben run his marine science field program Island Interns, which brought high school students on 6-day field biology trips to the Channel Islands off California and 1,000 miles south into remote parts of Baja California, Mexico and was attended by kids from as far away as England. Sky graduated from the Art Institute in Santa Monica with a B.S. in Culinary Management and has had a meteoric rise in the Hollywood hospitality industry. Sky has worked in five star hotels and restaurants, opened exclusive clubs and done marketing for high-end companies.
Physical Rehabilitation and Construction
New Jersey, USA
33 year-old Noah Haas is a gruff, tough New Jersey boy and the ultimate handyman. Whatever may be thrown at the team, on sea or on-shore, Noah’s the guy who can build it, fix it or destroy it. With a background in personal training and physical therapy, he not only keeps the boat in shape, but the crew as well!
Noah has a strong interest in philosophy, history and science and how these disciplines can be integrated to improve people’ s lives. He coordinates stroke and movement disorder rehabilitation among the populations we help, and he encourages young people in these areas to learn techniques for protecting and strengthening their bodies against the chronic injuries that commonly afflict people living at the subsistence level in the developing world. Noah has a gift for problem solving and one of his core beliefs is that “there are no problems, only solutions”—one of the basic tenets that has brought Floating Doctors from a dream to reality.
Noah has a background in construction as well as holding B.S in Biology from Rutgers University in New Jersey, and is pursuing his Master’s in Molecular Biology. Noah lived and worked for three years as a Rehabilitation Therapist in San Francisco, helping to improve mobility among elderly members of the population suffering from strokes and recovering from major orthopedic procedures. Noah is also a personal trainer, focusing on real‐world strength development and protection against back and joint injury through core training exercises and body awareness.
He built two schoolrooms for the DesGranges Clinic in Haiti and in Honduras created similar construction and expansion programs for the clinics on Isla Rotan. Beneath his tattooed surface is a heart of gold which makes him a hit with local kids. He’s vital to the mission and committed to the voyage – in spite of the fact that when he first came on board, he couldn’t swim.
Ship’s dog and Leftover food Handler
Giles McCoy is a 14-month old black Labrador/mastiff/bull terrier mutt adopted from the Flagler County Humane Society by the Floating Doctors crew. One day at the local VFW, we were told about a recently deceased member of their chapter who had been a survivor of the USS Indianapolis, the famous WWII vessel whose 1400 crew spent five days floating in the Pacific until 700 of them were rescued. Sharks and exposure got the rest. In the water, a young marine named Giles McCoy prayed that if he survived, he would become a doctor and dedicate his life to service. He survived and was rescued, and he became a doctor who later opened one of the free medical clinics in the area. When Sky and Ben heard that story, Sky exclaimed ‘What a great name for a boat dog!” And we went to the Humane Society and found our own Giles McCoy.
Giles is a big dopey dog that loves children and all other dogs (and has a strange fascination with pelicans…he appears to think that he is one). He has befriended small horses on Isla Roatan, who sniffed at him incredulously (assuming he must be another small horse!).
Director of Public Health & Operations
Greg studied biology at the University of California, Irvine, which sparked a passion for public health and population sciences. In pursuit, Greg completed a master of public health from the University of Michigan with full scholarship. He has since operated a county health department’s syndromic surveillance system and subsequently invested years of epidemiology research within a major pharmaceutical corporation.
Joining the crew, Greg’s first goal was to establish a complete electronic research database. The reports and statistics he now produces are instrumental to understanding our communities, to increasing advocacy for patient care, supplying eye-opening content for grants, and more. Greg continues to work with resources and initiatives that allow us to do more for our community, or do it better.
Greg left the high-stakes industry in search of a role where there is incredible need for community-based public health investment, yet where the only limitation is entirely dependent upon one’s abilities and dedication. Discovering our mission and the incredible public health needs of the communities we serve, Greg was on the next flight down. We’ve found his only limitation to be that there aren’t two of him.
Cardiac ICU Nurse
Stofer Harris is a Texas-born, Texas-raised man. Between In September 2012, after trudging through immobilizing the mud and endless obstacles to provide treatment at isolated communities and the heartfelt and sometimes heartbreaking days invested with our elderly at the Asilo, Stofer knew Floating Doctors was his home. We were so excited when he corresponded with us about his dream to join the team for a much longer stay in serving the people of Panama. Stofer adds valuable expertise in addressing Cardiac issues in and around the Bocas Del Toro Archipelago.
Stofer is an outdoor enthusiast with a zest for camping, hiking, and all around adventure. He came up through the ranks of the Boy Scouts, as the leader of the local troop, earning their highest rank of Eagle Scout. It was with the Boy Scouts that he developed his passion for serving others. As an adult, he used his compassion for others as a stepping stone to become a nurse.
Stofer traveled to Lubbock after high school, where he received his degree in Nursing and his minor in Business from Texas Tech University. Searching for the most challenging intensive care unit, he became a nurse in the Cardiac ICU at University Medical Center. He developed quickly, and learned how to take care of the most ill patients. Inevitably, Stofer started to explore the world. His nursing experience and first-hand travel insights drew his attention to the incredible medical needs of the international community. Falling in love with Panamanians and the indigenous people of the Bocas Del Toro Archipelago, Stofer is now a fixture for the Floating Doctors, demonstrating daily commitment and care for his patients. You will easily identify him as the tall, lanky, blond dude, with the quick smile and contagious laugh.
Dan Evers, DVM
Dr. Dan Evers and his wife Cindy hail from Florida, where Dan attended the University of Central Florida obtaining a B.S. Zoology before going on to achieve a DVM in Veterinary Medicine and a B.S. in Agriculture from Tuskegee University. Dr. Dan maintained a private veterinary practice for 27 years before coming to Panama, and has a special interest in veterinary orthopedics and adipose stem cell therapy for animals. In 2012, Dr. Dan and Cindy moved to Panama to try out jungle living, and have been incredible supportive of our program. Dr. Dan regularly attends field clinics to attend to the dogs, cats, cows, pigs, horses, and other animals that nearly all the communities have. The health of these animals is not only important for the productivity of the community, but because many parasites and diseases in these animals are transmitted to humans, especially worms. All part of creating and maintaining healthy communities! Thanks to Dr. Dan and Cindy for your tireless support!
Ven. Rev. Koch’ang Dupchen Tomas O’Flaherty, Jnr is a Buddhist monk in the Soto Zen tradition, a Lineage Holder in the Crazy Heart lineage of Celtic Buddhism and a renunciate in Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism in the Gelupka School. He is guided by H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama. He has a 35-year history in pre hospital care, cardiac clinical perfusion, cardiac surgery recovery and medical device sales and research.
Thomas serves the residents of Casa de Asilo in Bocas Del Toro, Panama and is a member of Floating Doctors serving as their representative at Casa de Asilo. He is also on the Board of Directors of MALA Project, a non profit that provides medical care for the monks of Drepung Gomang Monastery in Mundgod, India.
Boat Refit Project Manager
Karen has been sailing in and around the UK for most of her life and has always harboured ambitions to cross the oceans. She met John at their local sailing club in 2007 and they gave up their day jobs in 2012 to set sail on a circumnavigation; that sounds easy, but they don’t actually own a boat big enough so they’ve needed to be a bit more resourceful!!
Whilst sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, they heard about the Floating Doctors from a fellow ship mate and the great work they are doing here in Central America. With a background in Pharmaceutical Engineering and project management, a passion for exploring and a desire to make a difference within communities while travelling, Karen contacted Ben to see if the team needed some help. Ben mentioned some boat re-fit projects that were planned and that was it – Karen and John in Panama!
Now Karen’s applying all her practical and organizational skills and rolling up her sleeves to keep the doctors floating. She’s loving being part of a team providing vital medical support to so many in Panama.
Boat Refit Project Manager
Joining the Floating Doctors marks John’s return to Central America 22 years after first going to Nicaragua with the NGO Leaf for Life (www.leafforlife.org) to work on nutrition projects as a wet-behind-the-ears engineering graduate. He returned to the UK with the intention of helping people in developing countries obtain clean water supplies but somehow got distracted and has spent most of those last 22 years helping oil companies atone for their sins and clean up their pollution problems.
When John met Karen, shared passions for sailing and helping people led them bobbing towards the Floating Doctors. Believing that there is a lot of truth in the saying “good judgement comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgement”, John is hoping to bring much of his experience of keeping old cars, old houses, old boats and his own old self running to help the Floating Doctors re-fit and get Southern Wind and Seahorse back out on the water.
Kim Olpin, MA Public Administration
Los Angeles, CA
Kim Olpin grew up in Los Angeles with a deep love of being in and around water. She spent most of her childhood swimming and in junior high was on the swim team at the local YMCA. She has been an active volunteer since high school. She has donated her time to a variety of youth groups, theater organizations, meal delivery services, and AIDS organizations over the years. She lived in Boston for seven years and spent three of those on the organizing committee for the Boston Pride Parade, and regularly participated in the Boston AIDS walk (occasionally barefoot). Since moving back to LA Kim has been a regular volunteer with Treepeople and has worked for the past six years as the Regional Coordinator for the Friends of the Los Angeles River annual LA River cleanup.
Kim received her B.A. in Psychology from Brandeis University and her Master’s in Public Administration from California State University, Northridge. Most recently she was the Digital Packaging and Delivery Supervisor for a major post production company. She started during the infancy of the industry offering content online, and helped the department grow from 3 people to 17, creating the processes and best practices for this new emerging division. Realizing that her volunteer work was more personally fulfilling to her, in 2010 Kim went back to school to get her Master’s in Public Administration with a focus on non-profit management. Kim is excited to bring her together her love of the water and helping people, and her supervisory and processes development skills with her newfound non-profit management knowledge for the benefit of Floating Doctors.
Project Manager (Marine Operations)
Sharon comes to Floating Doctors after 8 years as a teacher and educational tour operator on Grand Cayman. She holds a commercially endorsed coastal skipper’s ticket and has owned two boats, one in the UK and one in the USA. She has being sailing for over 30 years both as part of a racing crew and as a skipper, and holds a degree in marine biology from Plymouth University, a certificate in teaching and a master’s degree in sustainable development from Exeter University.
Having felt she had done all she can in the Caymans, Sharon wanted a new challenge and applied to join the Floating Doctors. She has great organizational skills and loves working with people. She enjoys the practical side of boat building, problem solving and “doing some good” in any community she works with.
Whilst in Cayman she was the director of Cayman Sea Sense, promoting sustainable sea food choices; she also set up the Extended After School Program with Michael Myles from the Ministry of Youth and Sports to promote fitness and good citizenship for at-risk youth; a program which now extends through both primary and secondary schools nationally. She also set up ecology workshops for all schools as well as ‘Sea and Discover’ camps for youths of all ages. Sharon is passionate about the environment; children, her Hungarian Viszla dog, sailing and rugby, having played for England students and England A ladies in her younger days!