PANEGYRIQUE DU Dr FABIEN WESNER FLEURANT
(Contribution au projet de Konbit Pou Ranje Nodwes)
Fabien Wesner Fleurant, MD, a renaissance man.
Fabien Wesner Fleurant, MD, a renaissance man.
Contrary to the stereotypical connotation of our country as the poorest in the Western hemisphere and generally depicted in the most negative view by some, there is plenty of evidence it’s a cradle of many eminently talented people who have contributed to the education and development in various spheres, on all four continents. This crystallizes a confounding and puzzling reality creating the dispiriting legacy of an asset doubling as a curse, contributing to a permanent brain drain. One such example is our colleague, Fabien Wesner Fleurant.
Recounting the life of Fabien Wesner Fleurant is a cautionary tale of the divergent paths of individual and societal growth. Whereas the former is supposed to birth the latter, it is our accursed pattern that the former can be only be achieved outside of our geographical confines, leaving a void filled by less than stellar performance. Even when such accomplished and talented sons and daughters want to bring about societal growth, roadblocks are created.
Nonetheless, it is always refreshing learning from our elders and admiring their trailblazing groove. Through their experience, history becomes a front row seat learning process. Listening to their story is a voyage through space and time, different and yet so similar to the present. So, let’s climb aboard and start this venture.
Having completed his secondary classes at the then-famous Lycée Pétion, he still fondly remembers the feared but venerated “censeur des etudes ” Chrysostome Laventure, lovingly named Tutu, among several other competent, respectable teachers, who left their imprints and earned our undying admiration, love and respect. It was a time when a modicum teaching into handcraft was part of the curriculum, book binding, cabinetry, furniture making were taught once a week for an hour. Drawing classes were taught by “an original maître tonton Léon Bance.” Wesner early on discovered he had a good dexterity and excelled at any activity with his hands. He enjoyed drawing a lot. He was a curious fellow and in the summer toward the latter part of his teen years, he interned at the national newspaper, Le Matin.
He started as manual labor, leaning typography, a tedious work involving handpicking, single metallic letter characters, aligning them to form words, phrases, paragraphs and also working the printing press. He gravitated through all the levels, to proof reading and finally began to write. That time spent at that newspaper and at other marginal printing plants was formative and allowed him to witness many honest intellectuals, also some vile politicians operating behind closed doors, where decisions are made, and people’s true colors come alive; scheming was commonplace. He can tell a lot about the events leading to the election of the then colonel and later general, Paul Eugène Magloire to the national palace.
One of his most guarded reminiscence is his participation in a re-printing-albeit rushed and of meager présentation-of the Mémoires de Toussaint Louverture. The reading of this text traumatized him and as he describes it, “…his lamentations, his implorations to Napoléon, his begging for a few more fire logs, to bring a little more heat in the dungeon, the glacial cell of Fort de Joux…deeply upset and scarred my young conscience at 17 years old.” One can surmise his experience rubbing shoulders with such diverse characters at those different newspapers was formative and molded him politically.
He confesses that a by-product was his keen sense of observation, of note taking, of sleuthing, writing, editing, skills that would become so useful later in his professional career and inherent endeavors and activities.
He enrolled in medical school in October 1953, a few weeks before my own birth. Absent a fortuitous encounter with an old friend the evening before the exam, who reminded him to review his notes on chemistry, he claims candidly, “I might not have made the cut” or as he deftly quotes François Villon, “Tant s’en fût que je ne fusse de leur confrérie. ” Of course, this flies in the face of the fact he finished among the first ten in the ranking. With the support of some venerated chairmen, he got a residency position in Thoracic Surgery and landed at the Sanatorium of Port-au-Prince where he had exposure to a lot of pathology and perfected his surgical skills. Along the way, due to unfortunate and pressing circumstances, he rose to the top in short order.
He then went to Montreal to further his training in Cardiothoracic Surgery with the intent of returning to the motherland. Those were the horrific days of ” Papadoc”. Because of the clandestine political activities he was involved in and the capture, torture and
killing of a few of his friends and comrades in the struggle, he had to reconsider coming back to the cauldron and made the obvious, painful, difficult and wise decision to remain abroad.
As a lot of his contemporaries would attest to, professional opportunities in Canada at that time for members of the third world were limited.
He veered south to the US. Cleveland, Ohio, was his first stop for his training in General Surgery. He was exposed, through rotation to the famed Cleveland Clinic. He was lucky to have been taken under the wings of some well-connected Jewish physicians. Some of the perks were prime seats at the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra concerts. He recounts a historical
performance by a “cherubic Itzhak Perlman playing Paganini’s violin concerto…His virtuosity, his acrobatic fingerings amazed everyone, even the orchestra’s conductor and players. His resonating vibratos and highest string E tremolos giving goose bumps…There was not a dry eye in the Hall…Then the release, almost climactic, with the longest, most thunderous applause I ever experienced.”
His next stop was a fellowship in Cardiovascular surgery at Newark Beth Israel Hospital. His work was so well regarded that he was sent to Paris for one month to learn about and then report on the development and early use of then-called atomic pacemaker. This didn’t translate into any job offer after his training. He was nudged out and fortunately landed a position at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and based at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx, known then as Fort Apache. A tough job turned into opportunity to shine and become influential and well respected.
His early exposure to the writing and printing words was a seedling that kept germinating for the rest of his life. While in medical school, he wrote press releases in La Phalange (a newspaper that became a victim of Duvalier’s tight claws) about the activities of Le Cercle des Étudiants. In the US, he describes his role in medical writing thusly, “.writer for more than 10 years, in the Section of Abstracts in International Surgery in SG & amp;O, Surgery Gynecology & Obstetrics, the official publication of the American College of Surgery, abstracting, condensing surgical articles on Vascular and Thoracic topics.
AMHE also benefited from his writing skills as he was at the forefront of publication of leaflets,
newsletters, bulletins and so on. His collaboration with AMHE goes back to its creation, a maelstrom of achievement that he lays at the feet of the trio of Lionel Lainé ‘, Roger Dérosena and Laurent Pierre-Philippe.
Wesner Fleurant MD devoted is energy to the development, structuration, growth and smooth running of AMHE, holding several posts. He proudly states, “I remember, as if it was only yesterday, that the first drafts of AMHE by-laws were written in our living room in New Rochelle. I humbly claim responsibility for the creation, and revendicate the paternity of the Board of Trustees (I can’t forget, by twist and turns, being at the receiving end of many jokes and arrows!) …” He also lets it be known that “The trove of initial manuscripts, handwritten archives are still dearly kept in many folders in my possession, waiting to be handed over to a secure Secretariat.”
A paean is not meant to be a comprehensive bio and as such a lot of events can be only be briefly touched upon. Some of the highlights one would retain would be the following facts:
- · Chosen to be his class laureate, talented enough to be at the tender age of 29 years in charge of our country’s only existing Cardiothoracic Department at the Sanatorium of Port-au-Prince and skilled enough to be ranked the best (up to that date) Fellow in Cardiovascular and Vascular Surgery at Newark Beth Israel Hospital, bright enough to lead the Cardiovascular Department at Lincoln Hospital, a unit of the Albert Einstein a College of Medicine and among the first to experiment the pioneering new techniques such as the use of staples. It is his great sadness he couldn’t pass his knowledge to enough of our compatriots back home because of the archaic nature of our medical infrastructure, as hard as he tried.
• In the academic field, he published numerous scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and presented exhibits of his works at ACS and New York State Congress, rose to the level of Assistant Professor at Albert Einstein School of Medicine. He spearheaded as Board member and then President of Bronx Chapter of ACS, international joint meetings and exchanges and helped organize numerous Conferences overseas with Medical Organizations in the West Indies (Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago) and Martinique. In Haiti, he also taught Vascular Surgery at the Notre Dame School of Medicine but remains frustrated that he couldn’t do the best possible job as there were no clinics, no patients / cases to present, no angiography though there was plenty of teaching material around to identify.
• As membre of La Société Haïtienne de l’Environnement in Haiti. This organization was meant to sensitize the population about Ecology and decision makers about sound policies. But its mission was corrupted by deformed vision: the seed money became a piggy bank for junkets such as travels, 5-7 cocktail parties.
• The School of Music of St Trinity Church and The Ste-Cecilia Orchestra. A nexus that occurred by happenstance through his brother, a musician and among the first students from its inception. Fabien Wesner Fleurant became connected to the Boston supporting Group involved in structuring, teaching, organizing and financially supporting this great endeavor that formed lots of good musicians. The offspring choral “Les petits Chanteurs,” and the St Cecilia Orchestra toured North America with great success. We still remember the resounding performance of the Wind Ensemble section of the Orchestra at our first AMHE conference in Haiti at the then Club Med in July 1997.
• As a true renaissance man, he now spends the better part of his shrinking free time, a “citizen” of New Rochelle, now busier than ever, also painting and exposing his works. He has rekindled his early passion for drawing into a full-fledged avocation of l’Art plastique. At the tail end of a long life fervently shared with his companion, his wife Josette, and having gone through numerous trials and tribulations, he believes the following: “…seeing yourself in the mirror with honesty, serenity and humility, you come to espouse the writing in the bible, though having evolved from all religious experiences and mystical emotions, and having lost all faith and now being agnostic, I now live by the motto, my new mantra:
‘The Truth Shall Set You Free’. With equanimity, peace of heart, live and let live, forgiving, though not forgetting…
Effort of liberation.”