Norfolk, VA July 22 – 29, 2012
Marlène Rigaud Apollon

The week-long convention of the AMHE (Association des Medicines Haitiens à l’Étranger) that took place in Norfolk, Virginia from July 22 to July 29, 2012 is over.  “Joy, Pride, Mixed Emotions.”  Those words in the  Welcoming Note of Dr. Emmanuel François, President of the AMHE Baltimore-Washing-ton Chapter also express my sentiments as I look back at that week and think about how the less than expected participation after months of hard preparation could have led to disappointment.  Instead, that convention was a great success in many other ways.

The decrease in family participation, in contrast to the years when our children, now parents themselves, were eager to attend the AMHE conventions, made friends with their counterparts from the various chapters, kept in touch and still have good memories of those days, is striking.  A trend that started a few years back, it can be attributed to several factors, among them,

1.    The economic constraints — yes, physicians have also been affected even if, for the most part, to a lesser extent than the general public and, this year, a few chose to drive, even from as far as Florida rather than paying airfares for four or more family members.
2.    The requirement, for those who want to combine convention and family vacation, for the chosen location to be suitable for their purpose — a factor that played a major role this year.  Something Dr. Jean Robert Desrouleaux, President of the New York chapter, organizer of next year’s con-vention, obviously wants to change by putting a high emphasis for their choice of venue on the availability of activities for  young people.

Nevertheless, although, indeed, there were fewer physicians this year than in a long time and their coming and going, staggered through the week, were more noticeable than usual, the 39th convention of the AMHE was one of the most satisfying in other respects, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of its various committees.

Thus, contrary to a few parents’ predictions, every child or young adult to whom I asked the question responded enthusiastically that they were having fun.  And with Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, Bush Gardens the Nauticus Hands-on Science and Technology Center, the Naval Museum and a Ride aboard “The Spirit of Norfolk,” to name a few, who wouldn’t be?

For the adults, in addition to the powerful daily conferences, — one of which by our daughter Katia Magalie Apollon, M.D. — put together under the chairmanship of  Dr. Paul Lunis of the Scientific Committee — with Saturday reserved for Haitian issues, there were interesting “Lunch causeries,” among them, one about “Mother Lange, A Woman of Substance”, about the woman of Haitian Heritage who is a candidate for canonization,  by my sister Carole Rigaud Dépestre, member of the National Board of the Mother Lange Guild and of the Pilgrimage committee,  another on Haitian History by Dr. Louis Auguste and my own on “Frederic Douglass, Louis Mercier, Two Powerful Men, Two Great Speeches to Save Haiti.”

And, in the evening, among several treats, on Monday, courtesy of the multi-talented Dr. Henriot St. Gérard, the other Convention Coordinator with the already mentioned Dr. François, “AMHE:  Travail de Mémoire and, on Tuesday, the projection of “Haiti, Terre de Feu”,  following the State of the AMHE’s remarks  by Dr. Pierre-Paul Cadet, National President of the AMHE Central Executive Committee; on Wednesday, a White Affair aboard “The Spirit of Norfolk” boat; On Thursday, “The chapters night, highlighted by a well applauded violin performance by all three children of Drs. Florence and Anthony Solages, a Haute-Couture Ethiopian Fashion Show by Nadine Jerome, daughter of former Balimore-Washington Chapter mem-ber, Dr. Marc Jerome,  coordinated by talented Edda François and her daughter, Chantal François, PhD, — respectively, wife and daughter of Dr. Emmanuel François, for those few who may not know them –  and, of course, the gala night on Saturday with a 2 hour open bar cocktail party, good food, good music and the uplifting keynote speech of Dr. Yves Manigat, Former President both of the New Jersey Chapter and of the AMHE CEC (Central Executive Committee).  Again, more than enough to satisfy most, if not all, and to silence would-be remarks that “there was nothing to do in Norfolk.”

In that context, the decision of the Baltimore Washington chapter to hold the 40th anniversary Celebra-tory AMHE Convention in the historic city of Norfolk whose motto, Dr. Emmanuel Francois revealed, is “Crescas”, “Thou Shall Grow,” in Latin, was highly significant.

That motto could not have been more appropriate given the fact that it is a goal to which the AMHE has committed itself:
To Grow by getting more long-time physicians to become paying and ACTIVE members involving themselves in AMHE projects in Haiti.  And, as important and urgent, to Grow by attracting and enrolling more members of the younger generations of Haitian-American physicians, many of whom, like our daughter,  who, although not currently active members because of their time limitations of raising young children, are open to the idea.

It could not have been a more appropriate message also for an organization whose aspiration, as quoted by Dr. Yves Manigat, in his keynote speech, recalling a retreat organized 10 years ago by Dr. Fritz Apollon, Chairman of the Board, was to become a “Catalyst of Change for Haiti.” News that this year’s representatives from Haiti, Dr Ginette Lubin, President of the AMH (Association Medicale Haitienne), Dr Greta Roy and Dr Osni Eugene accompanied by Dr. Claude Suréna, a regular participant, must have received with pleasure.

“Let’s do it. It is our Duty.  It is our challenge to conquer” he concluded.  While the audience gave him a standing ovation, I was filled with the comforting thought that, all through the week,  I had witnessed the beginning of a greater readiness on the part of the  AMHE participants not only to acknowledge and to forgive mistakes but also to learn from them along with a newly born willingness to build consensus and to work together.  And I was suddenly aware that real growth was happening right under my eyes.


July 31, 2012

Marlène Rigaud Apollon

www.marlenerigaudapollon.com, http://www.lehman.cuny.edu/ile.en.ile/paroles/apollon.html
Author of
Cris de colère, Chants d’Espoir, I Want to Dance, Haiti Trivia, Haitian Art Trivia, Si je n’avais que des regrets, Louis Mercier, A la reconquête de l’idéal haitien – Une voix d’hier pour aujourd’hui et demain,.. To reconquer the Haitian ideal – A voice from yesterday for today and tomorrow, La Mystique de la Citadelle-The Mystique of the Citadelle
Contributor to the Anthology: 
Haiti Rising, Haitian History, Culture and the Earthquake of 2010, finalist, 2011 Book of the Year

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