Gubbrud Family Featured in Pioneer Press

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September 1, 2011

Dave and Jodi Gubbrud are both 1989 graduates of Augustana College.

Central assistant football coach Dave Gubbrud is a man on the go-go-go
Tim Leighton, St. Paul Pioneer Press

Dave GubbrudSt. Paul's Dave Gubbrud is nuts. He's been called such, as well as other colorful adjectives, by family, friends and acquaintances for trying to maintain a hellacious daily schedule during the high school football season, which begins tonight when Central hosts Northfield at Griffin Stadium.


- Gubbrud, 44, is an emergency room doctor at Fairview Riverside and Fairview University hospitals, a position he has had for more than 14 years.

- He is an assistant football coach at Central High School, an avocation that allows him to give back to a community he loves.

- He is a father of four and husband of Jodi, a wife whom he said should be sainted for putting up with his merciless schedule.

- He coaches two of his sons in a U14 football league at St. Paul's Jimmy Lee Rec Center.

These are his passions.

But don't bother criticizing the 1985 Central graduate for trying to do too much. He's heard it all before.

"Frankly, most people think I am an idiot or nuts to try and be a doctor as well as a football coach,'' he said while transitioning from a shift at the hospital to coaching practice at Central.

"Some people question my judgment about spreading myself too thin, but for the people who really know me, they know I have a passion for medicine, coaching and my family. I don't slack off at any of them. If you have a strong passion for something, you can't ignore it even if there aren't enough hours in the day. I enjoy the challenge. I do well with a swamped schedule.''


Gubbrud was a three-year varsity player from 1982-85 at Central in football, basketball and baseball. In football, he was a middle linebacker and offensive guard. Like most teens playing football, he dreamed of becoming a professional, but he soon realized he "wasn't genetically gifted enough.''

He switched his focus to becoming a sports journalist, which became his major when he enrolled at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., in 1985. He also played football there. He also had considered becoming a teacher and coach. As a senior at Central, he coached a fourth-grade boys basketball team.

But those career goals changed during his freshman year of college when his father, Dennis, had a stroke at age 38.

The stroke left Dennis, who died nine years ago, severely disabled. After recovering from the acute stage of the stroke, Dennis was transferred to a Veteran's Administration care facility in Sioux Falls, to be near extended family. The VA was a short walk from the Augustana campus for Gubbrud, who helped with his father's caregiving.

It became clear: He wanted to become a doctor.

"As an undergrad, I had no clue what kind of commitment I was looking at in becoming a doctor,'' Gubbrud said. "Now when I speak to undergrads, I tell them what to fully expect. You need to be ready for a full plate.''

In addition to his studies, Gubbrud continued to play football at Augustana.

"I had practice, academics, eating and the library,'' he said. "That was my life. I didn't have time for anything else. I did much better with my academics when all this stuff was going on. It forced me to use my time really well. I found that the offseason was harder because I had some free time. I don't do well with free time.''

Four years of undergraduate studies at Augustana was followed by four years of medical school at the University of Minnesota. He received his doctor's license in 1995, then served a three-year residency as an emergency room doctor.


Even though Gubbrud had become a doctor, he was still eager for any chance to lead a sports team.

He had a heart-to-heart with Augustana coach Jim Heinitz to discuss his overwhelming desire to coach amid his pursuit of a medical career.

"He thought I was crazy,'' Gubbrud said of Heinitz. "He told me I had to stay focused on the medical career because it will consume me. He reassured me there would be chances down the road to coach. I trusted him a lot.''

Gubbrud continued to push the issue.

During summers at college, he coached an American Legion baseball team. There was also a window of time before medical school began when he returned to Central to help coach football.

When medical school began and the 80- to 100-hour work weeks followed with his residency, coaching took a back seat.

"My coaching philosophy has changed some over the years,'' Gubbrud said. "When I was younger, it was the challenge of taking these kids and trying to teach them something. I really liked that teaching component. After medical school, it became the opportunity to be with the young men and have a potential to influence them into something positive as they moved on in life. That was really motivating.''

Gubbrud has been Central's defensive coordinator the past 12 seasons.

He said he reassesses his work and family situation each season.

"Every August, I get the bug to go back and coach football at Central,'' he said. "Fortunately, my wife gives it her blessing. She knows how it is. She is the daughter of a high school and college football coach.''

Central was the St. Paul City Conference champion last season. Under Gubbrud, Central's defense surrendered an average of only 187 yards per game.

"He is so meticulous; he breaks down everything on defense,'' Minutemen head coach Scott Howell said. "He comes to practice with all sorts of notes that he will share with the players. It is so valuable to have him, and he doesn't even have to be here. He just shows every day how committed he is to the team, the school and the community.''

Howell said Gubbrud makes about $4,000 to $4,500 as an assistant coach.

The extra income isn't a motivating factor for Gubbrud.

"I am grateful for the compensation, but it is pretty small compared to what I can make as a doctor picking up extra shifts,'' he said.

His players see that commitment.

"For me, he is just overall a great guy," senior captain Jerad Gardner said. "You can have a bad day, and he will say something to brighten your day. He makes time for us.''

Gubbrud gets tears in his eyes when he talks about his love for Central.

"I love this school and community,'' he said. "This is where I came from. I had some great influences on my life from this place. I want to give back. I was taught to face the challenges. I want to do what I can to help these young people.''


Gubbrud has saved lives in his workplace but is reluctant to take credit.

"I am a Christian man, so if anyone was saving a life, it is God working through me,'' he said. "It is rewarding to be able to sustain life. When the outcome is positive, it is a rush. If you think you did a good job administering to a patient and that person will have a good outcome, you feel pretty good about that.''

He has also lost a few patients.

"Sometimes the odds are so stacked against you as a doctor,'' he said, shaking his head. "There aren't any doctors that have worked in an E.R. that haven't had a bad outcome. Sometimes it doesn't matter what you do. You can be the best doctor in the world, but that isn't good enough.

"There is pressure, no doubt. One thing I learned early on is that when you make a decision in the E.R., you have to live with it. You can't go back. If you make a decision on treatment and you think it is right, then you can live with that decision.''

The fast pace of the E.R. fits Gubbrud's demeanor.

"I like being busy,'' he said. "I don't like sitting around too much. I try to empty the chart rack at work and keep on top of stuff.''

Over the years, he has seen a range of cases - from stomachaches to full cardiac arrest.

"It is a wide range, to be sure,'' he said. "Most of the people you see aren't true emergencies. Part of our job is to determine what is a true emergency or not. The trick is to recognize the uncommon presentation of common things and recognizing the common presentation of uncommon things.

"I can have 10 things going on at once, but you have stay level-headed. When a patient is there, I put everyone else in my life aside so I can devote every ounce of myself to that patient.''

On the football field, Gubbrud leaves much of the medical care to a trainer. He said he is not supposed to use his medical skills if technically a player isn't his patient. Still, there are situations when he has had to help out.

He has put dislocated limbs back into place and advised a player to take a breather.

"I try not to let my medical profession come into play,'' he said. "If someone is hurt, I have an oath to try and assist, especially if a trainer isn't available. I wouldn't be doing my profession any justice if I weren't there to help. I just have to use my judgment. In the E.R., we make those decisions all the time. My general rule is to do the right thing.''


Gubbrud's wife, Jodi, laughs at the three-ring circus their household has become.

"I think I do well with chaos,'' she said. "With triplets plus another child, adding his schedule to the mix hasn't been all that hard.''

The Gubbruds met in college, and Jodi has been fully immersed in the juggling act.

"When the triplets were 2 and Ellie was a couple of months old, even my dad asked if Dave's plate was a little too full,'' she said. "But I understand how important it is to him. I think he is really good at helping mold some of these young men that don't have good role models. I am proud of him.''

Jodi, a nonpracticing physical therapist, coaches their daughter's basketball team. Dave coaches his sons in baseball and football.

Gubbrud keeps domestic intensity at bay by not only helping with the kids but also by keeping busy with the upkeep of their St. Paul home.

Jodi, however, sees constant signs that football season is here.

"The house isn't quite as picked up as it usually is,'' she said. "There are football charts all over, and I find X's and O's all over the house. The dining room table has his computer out with plays on it. Signs of football are everywhere.''

Does Jodi dream of a day when solitude is the norm?

"No, I don't,'' she said. "I don't see that happening anytime soon, and that is OK.''

So how long can he keep up this pace?

"That's a great question,'' Gubbrud said. "No one has really asked me that before. People are too busy being critical, saying I am stretched out too thin.

"When times get tough in life, sports taught me not to buckle. I see that in my life as a doctor. I see it in my life as a coach, and I see it in my life as a husband and father. Sports might be a game, but it is also a training ground for life.''


Dave Gubbrud admits that balancing all of his passions can be a challenge, but he says it is worth it. "I don't want to miss out on a thing in life.'' During the football season, Mondays and Wednesdays are his most challenging days. A typical schedule on those days looks like this:


7 a.m. - Wakes up, makes breakfast for the children and helps get them off to school.

8:30 a.m. - Takes Otis, the family's yellow lab, for a walk.

9 a.m.-1 p.m. - Works on game plans for practices, studies game film, designs defensive schemes for upcoming opponent.

1:15 p.m. - Does housework or exercises.

2 p.m. - Leaves for Central for football practice.

5:15 p.m. - Arrives home to pick up sons John and Sam for youth football practice.

5:30 p.m. - Football practice at Jimmy Lee Rec Center.

7:30 p.m. - Practice ends. He brings the boys home for dinner and helps with homework.

9 p.m. - Lies down and tries to get some sleep.

11:15 p.m. - Gets up and leaves for work.

Midnight - Begins a shift in the emergency room. "Things are pretty crazy when I get there, but it will settle down by about 3 or 4 in the morning,'' he said.

7 to 8 a.m. - Depending on patient level, the shift can end in this period. If so, he tries to hustle home and help get the children off to school.


6 a.m. - Gets up and lets Otis out or takes him for a quick walk. Gets a coffee on his way to work.

7 a.m. - Begins his shift in the emergency room. "It can be slow between 7 and 8, but noon it will be full with ambulances rolling in,'' he said. He doesn't take a coffee break because he is alone until 10:30 a.m.

1 p.m. - He is relieved by part-time emergency room doctor Vicki Mossman. When it isn't the football season, Gubbrud will typically work until 4 p.m. For years, though, he and Mossman have had a deal in which she picks up his remaining shift on Wednesday during the football season so he can hustle to practice. She also has a tradition of making him a lunch for him to eat en route to practice because she knows he doesn't take time to eat.

2:15 p.m. - He gets to practice and goes right to the field, where the team has started agility drills.

5 p.m. - Practice ends.

5:15 p.m. - Arrives at home to pick up John and Sam for football practice or a game.

7:15 p.m. - Practice or game ends.

7:30 p.m. - Comes home, eats dinner, helps kids with homework.

9:30 p.m. - Watches film and plans practices.

11:15 p.m. - Goes to bed.


Age: 44

Birthplace: St. Paul

Resides: St. Paul

Family: Wife, Jodi; triplet sons Sam, John and Joe, all 13; daughter, Ellie, 11.

Occupation: Emergency room doctor, Fairview University

High school: St. Paul Central, 1985 graduate

College, undergraduate: Augustana College (S.D.)

Medical school: University of Minnesota

Hobbies: Coaching, basketball, fishing, reading

Legacy: "As a father, I want to be remembered as a loving, caring and supportive person. As a coach, I want to be remembered as someone that was prepared, cared about his team and did all he could to help guide his play ers into life. As a doctor, I want to be remembered as someone that worked at giving it my all to his patients.''