A Trailblazer in the Science of Blood-Alcohol Testing

Kurt M. Dubowski, Ph.D., is known for his outstanding contributions to clinical chemistry and his work in the science of breath and blood-alcohol testing. Mr. Dubowski passed away October 23rd, 2017 at the age of 96.

blood alcohol testing

He was the first state director and first chairman of the Oklahoma Board of Tests for Alcohol and Drug Influence after the Legislature created the state agency in 1967.

As a longtime faculty member of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Department of Pathology, Dr. Dubowski had served in the blood-alcohol testing capacities for many years and was an important part in the development of rules, procedures, and standards that the agency uses to regulate the collection and analysis of blood, breath, saliva, and urine evidence so that the results could be considered valid and admissible as evidence in court.

He joined the medical faculty at the University of Oklahoma in 1961, which he held for decades, and served as a George Lynn Cross Distinguished Professor of Medicine, professor of pathology, and director of toxicology laboratories and forensic science laboratories. He also served as the president of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry in 1985.

To say the least, Dr. Kurt Dubowski was a busy man!

The blood and tissue alcohol analysis methods developed by Dubowski have been used by laboratories of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Texas Rangers, the Sûreté Nationale of France, and numerous more clinical and public health labs.

His friend and senior vice president and provost of OU Health Sciences Center, Dr. Jason R. Sanders said, “He was very active in the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, having served in many roles of the association’s leadership. He was a friend and close colleague of many at the Health Sciences Center (and he) will be missed.”

He was able to pass his outstanding knowledge onto all levels, teaching everyone from undergraduate students in the health professions to graduate students and postdoctoral scientists, plus senior medical faculty, as well as practicing physicians, lawyers, and judges. Over his 50-year teaching career, Dubowski taught a DHHS Assistant Secretary for Health—the country’s top federal physician—many faculty members, several deans, and a university president.

With such an impressive career, Dubowski acquired several awards such as, the AACC Award for Outstanding Contribution through Service to the Profession of Clinical Chemistry (1973) and an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Capital University (1984). He also a Widmark Laureate of the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs, and Traffic Safety (1980).

During the latter part of his career, Dubowski focused his research on behavioral toxicology and drugs of abuse. He organized and chaired the 1987 AACC Beckman Conference on drug abuse in the workplace. He developed survey programs to evaluate blood and serum alcohol as well as being active in developing federal workplace drug testing regulations.

Dubowski was the last surviving Founding Member of the AAFS (American Academy of Forensic Sciences) and according to AAFS Academy News, Dubowski’s contributions to forensic science included:

  • One of seven USPHS consultants who created the Poison Information Center program
  • Assisted Centers for Disease Control in determining the cause of Legionnaires’ Disease by eliminating poisoning, 1976;
  • Created Dubowski “Blood-Alcohol Table,” 1954-2011, which became the most widely used single BAC interpretation document;
  • 180 peer-reviewed publications, 1947-2011;
  • Participated in formalizing and regulating military drug-use testing as a consultant to SAODAP, Executive Office of the President of the United States, 1970s;
  • Participated in the formalizing and regulating civilian workplace drug-use testing as a consultant to NIDA, 1970-80s; and as a Charter Member of the DHHS Drug Testing Advisory Board, 1990-94;
  • Mason & Dubowski (1974, 1976) proposed direct reporting of breath-alcohol concentration, replacing conversion of a BrAC measurement to a calculated blood-alcohol concentration (now the near-universal practice for forensic breath-alcohol testing);
  • Organized and served as Founding President, and later as a Director, of the American Board of Forensic Toxicology, which was conceived as the template for the Board Certification in the Forensic Sciences, 1975-2003.

Dr. Kurt Dubowski was a visionary leader and educator who will be missed by his colleagues, friends, and family. He is survived by his wife, Natalie Essary, who was actively apart of his scientific career, especially AAFS.

A Trailblazer in the Science of Blood-Alcohol Testing
Article Name
A Trailblazer in the Science of Blood-Alcohol Testing
Kurt M. Dubowski, Ph.D., contributed to clinical chemistry with his work in the science of breath and blood-alcohol testing--passed away October 23rd, 2017.

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