Remember Reynold Ducasse MD

By Emmanuel Francois MD, MPH

This week, on December 12, 2017 at 5:30 am, Dr Reynold Ducasse, one of AMHE most sustaining pillars had expired. With his departure, AMHE had lost one of its most ardent member and supporter. Dr Reynold Ducasse may not be part of the original quintet that created the Association, but he rides right up there with them.

Son of the Nuclear Physicist and former dean of the Engineering School of the State University of Haiti, Mr Vergnaud Ducasse, Reynold was born in Port Au Prince, Haiti on June 6, 1940. Due to his father’s choice, Reynold didn’t attend a regular maternal and primary school, but instead was taught at home until 1952, when he was ready to sit at the state examination for the primary school certificate. He passed it with flying colors, and that allowed him to be admitted at the Lycée Firmin where he would stay for his entire secondary years. He completed these years with the Bac Philo in 1959, and entered Med School a few weeks later in that same year.

Like most of us who frequented the medical school in the 60’s, besides the body of academic knowledge of Medicine, Reynold acquired progressively a deep appreciation of the political and social milieu in which we were living then. This rude wakening of the realities of life under the Duvalier regime, forged in him the desire to do something about it. That desire never left him and probably was the engine that propelled his actions within AMHE. He graduated MD in 1965 with other classmates who would become also important AMHE leaders, such as Board of Trustees member Remy Obas MD, former Executive Committee Presidents and present AMHE Foundation Directors Jean Talleyrand MD and Serge Bontemps MD, to mention but a few.

After medical school, his superior intellect led him to be accepted at the most coveted residency post in pulmonary medicine at the Port-au-Prince Sanitarium. After his two years of residency training, there, he went to Germany for a year to deepen his knowledge in respiratory diseases. At his return from Europe, he was admitted for an internal Medicine residency training with subspecialty in cardiology nn Montreal, Quebec. During his stay in Quebec, he met Mariette that would become his wife in a ceremony held in Queens NY, in the early seventies, with long time friends Jean Talleyrand MD and Alix Haspil MD, duly filling out either personally or through family members, the mandatory positions of Best Man and Maid of Honor for the wedding ceremony.

Shortly thereafter, he emigrated again, this time to Chicago, IL. There he polished his skills in Cardiology at the University of Illinois and was appointed in the Faculty staff starting with the title of Clinical Instructor at the Abraham Lincoln School of Medicine.

At the end of the seventies and early eighties, Dr Ducasse became earnestly involved in the affairs of AMHE. From simple member, he rose up in ranks in the local chapter, to become soon thereafter member of the chapter’s Executive Committee. As President of the AMHE Chicago chapter, he organized in 1989 the very successful AMHE Annual Convention from August 2nd to sixth, in Lincolnshire, IL Due to the success of that convention, he was elected unopposed to the position of national treasurer within the Central Executive Committee. In July 1994, he was the keynote speaker at the convention held in St Louis, MO. He was introduced then with his newly-minted academic title of Clinical Assistant Professor of Medical Cardiology at the Abraham Lincoln School of Medicine of the University of Illinois. It was a mouthful. The assistance could not refrain itself from bursting out a collective chuckle and received Reynold with such a vibrant round of applause that everyone knew that Dr Ducasse had bought the audience, lock, stock, and barrel. Whatever he would say in the few minutes after, would be received as golden droppings coming off the mouth of a deeply thinking philosopher. Fortunately, Dr Ducasse was at the right altitude. The audience was not short-changed. and received that night, one of the most masterly-crafted keynote speech in the annals of AMHE.

Throughout his dealings within AMHE, his excellent work caught everyone’s attention and when the Association’s Foundation Board of Directors needed to fill a vacancy, he was offered, and he accepted to be the secretary of the Board. This is where Reynold would demonstrate his true skill in leadership. He reorganized the charitable activities within AMHE, by melting together scattered organizations created in St Louis, MO, New York, NY, and elsewhere to carry out goodwill works toward Haiti, while since its inception AMHE had a Foundation as its charitable arm. From that effort, the official AMHE Medical Relief Foundation was rechristened to become the AMHE Foundation and to be the only and official umbrella under which, all charitable activities will be carried out.

In all his dealings with the organizations, Reynold was never one to seek personal gain and to show that selfishness that had creeped within our ranks and had become so rampant, that we loathe to see it in exhibit by certain members nowadays. He could have abused the Foundation. He could have made expensive junket trips to be paid by the Foundation. He never did it. He was never a taker but always a giver. When his wife died in 1994 shortly after that keynote speech in St Louis MO, he immortalized her name by creating the Mariette Ducasse Memorial Fund to promote medical education in Haiti and housed it within the AMHE Foundation in 1996.

For all his selfless and magnanimous behavior within AMHE, I place him on the same pedestal as the original quintet that created AMHE.  As a survivor of that quintet, I am sure that the departed ones would have agreed with me and that I would secure their vote if they could cast it.

Reynold, we miss you dearly. We offer that memorial to your life, so the upcoming Haitian physicians can take your life as a shining example of what theirs can be. We ask that from wherever you may be above us, you continue to keep a watchful eye on the tiny progress of that association within which you had devoted so much of your time and talent. We wish that you continue to guide us, so we can navigate safely among these social and psychological reefs that are always there to get us and to threaten our very existence. And may God receive your soul safely in His kingdom.

We present our sincere condolences to Reynold’s brothers Daniel and Russel, and to the rest of the family. A small private religious ceremony will be arranged by the family today, December 18th, before the cremation of the body. AMHE, through its Chicago branch, will have a memorial ceremony to celebrate Dr Reynold Ducasse’s life and his achievements. Place, date and time will be communicated when known.

Respectfully submitted

Emmanuel Francois MD, MPH

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