Dr. Antoine (Tony) Augustin, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS) “alumni” class of 1979, died on March 20, 2014 at home in Haiti.
Dr. Augustin’s passing is a great loss for Haiti and for the network of HAS alumni who, whether they were privileged to work alongside him or not, all benefited from his devotion to HAS. Dr. Augustin’s belief in the work of HAS led to a strong partnership that spanned decades. “Tony was a wonderful physician, a public health pioneer, and a true friend of Hospital Albert Schweitzer,” notes Dr. Dan Fitzgerald, co-director of the Center for Global Health at Weill Cornell Medical College and an HAS board member. Dr. Fitzgerald spent three years as a physician and researcher at HAS in the 1990s, and recalls Dr. Augustin’s work with great admiration.
Dr. Tony Augustin graduated in 1972 from the Medical College of Wisconsin, and maintained active relationships with faculty and students there, who helped in his efforts to bring healthcare to remote parts of Haiti. U.S. Board Certified in Surgery, he studied under the finest pediatric surgeons at Harvard University’s teaching hospitals, while concurrently earning a Masters degree in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health. Upon returning to Haiti, Dr. Augustin began working as a surgeon, including at HAS.
But Dr. Augustin soon realized that improving preventive and community-based health care in Haiti was his true passion and calling. “He soon put on his public health hat and never took it off,” notes Dr. Gretchen Berggren, whose own groundbreaking work in public health helped to eradicate tetanus and measles in the HAS service area, becoming a model for healthcare delivery around the world.
Dr. Gérald Lerebours, one of Dr. Augustin’s closest colleagues and an HAS board member, remembers, “Tony was a fantastic health planner and left a legacy of many strengthened health organizations in Haiti.”
Indeed, Dr. Augustin was intimately involved with the founding or running of many key healthcare organizations in Haiti: the Association des Oeuvres Privées de Santé (AOPS), an association of private healthcare institutions; l’Institut Haïtien de l’Enfance (IHE), the premiere health survey group in Haiti; Citimed, an organization of primary care and urgent-care clinics across Haiti; Centre d’Analyse et de Politique de Santé (CAPS), a leader in health policy planning, and Management and Resources for Community Health (MARCH), an influential organization devoted to the management of community health. “In a word,” Dr. Berggren comments, “Dr. Augustin was instrumental to most of the public health activity happening in Haiti over the last twenty-five years.”
Dr. Augustin remained committed to helping HAS even after his tenure as a surgeon had ended. Not only did he ensure that HAS was invited to participate in all AOPS activities, his organization MARCH collaborated in many meaningful ways with HAS. For instance, MARCH founded one of the first micro-lending groups for women in Mirebelais, Haiti, and in the 1990’s, Dr. Augustin specially requested that a similar project be initiated at HAS. “Most of all,” notes Dawn Johnson, Director of Integrated Community Services at HAS, “Tony was a key advocate within the Global Fund program, which awarded HAS generous and crucial funding for many years.”
Dr. Lerebours remembers Dr. Augustin’s tireless dedication to bringing health care to underserved areas and to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. In addition, Dr. Augustin provided technical assistance to healthcare organizations in Haiti and overseas, conducted his own research, and was an active member of various commissions coordinating the delivery of public health services in Haiti. He also served as a consultant for several international entities, including the United States government, the World Bank, and UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Tony Augustin was a most dynamic force in public health in Haiti,” remarks Dr. Renée Bergner, co-founder and former president of the HAS Alumni Association as well as a former longtime HAS board member. “His death is a great loss for Haiti as well as for HAS, but he leaves a legacy of remarkable accomplishment that may serve as an example for others to follow.
First Lady Sophia Saint Rémy-Martelly attended Dr. Augustin’s funeral and extended personal condolences to the Augustin family, as did many leaders and members of major healthcare and governmental organizations from around the country. Minister of Health Florence Guillaume delivered the official eulogy.
Dr. Augustin enjoyed many hobbies and interests outside of his work as a physician and leader in public health. A favorite pastime was playing keyboard for the Latin band he started. Dr. Augustin also developed a sustained interest in encouraging the revitalization of the once-vibrant Haitian tourism industry.
Dr. Augustin is survived by his wife, Dr. Yvette Edouard Augustin, and two children, Ann and Alain.
HAS extends its deepest sympathies to the Augustin family, and thanks them for Dr. Augustin’s decades of service to our hospital and to all of Haiti.
Read more about Dr. Augustin’s work in public health here; an obituary in French can be found here.