PIH mourns “a hero and an angel”

Posted on 09/22/09


Dr. Josue Augustin

Dr. Josue Augustin, the director of surgery for PIH's partner organization in Haiti, Zanmi Lasante (ZL), was killed on August 31. Reeling from the loss, the PIH family remains committed to Josue's life work of building a surgical program to provide life-saving operations to some of the poorest communities in the world and to working with authorities to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

Josue died in Hinche, the capital and largest city in Haiti's Central Plateau. An autopsy confirmed that his death was a homicide. Local police and international experts are working together to gather and analyze evidence of the circumstances of his death. ZL and PIH are supporting the investigative and judicial process to the full extent possible.

Hundreds of ZL staff and supporters traveled several hours to attend the service on September 12, joining a crowd that overflowed the First Baptist Church in Petionville, Haiti. Louise Ivers, PIH's clinical director in Haiti and a long-time colleague and friend of Josue's, delivered a eulogy at the funeral.

“In our anger and in our frustration, I wish that today we will remember Josue’s life and not just his death," Ivers said. "Let us remember what he said with his life. He took a stand for the destitute poor – and he did so with grace and with humility… Dr Josue was a rare jewel in our midst – he never wanted people to pay for surgery. He didn’t want to sell health. He didn’t want people to die because they were poor….


"Let us remember the light that he brought—with all his heart, with all his strength, with all his sacrifice—to his mission to serve the poor."

– Louise Ivers

Read Louise's eulogy for Josue

"Today, let us remember Josue’s life," she continued. "Let us remember the light that he brought, with all his heart, with all his strength, with all his sacrifice – to his mission to serve the poor. Our obligation now at PIH is to ensure that his mission lives on, to ensure that we keep his memory alive with honor and that even though he is not here with us physically, his image, his work, the cause he battled for is not lost.”

Since joining the PIH family over a decade ago, Josue took on a strong leadership role on ZL's clinical team.

"Dr. Josue [was] a level-headed and thoughtful surgeon and the driving force behind our collective efforts to make sure that surgery did not remain the “neglected stepchild” of our work in Haiti,” wrote PIH co-founder Paul Farmer in a eulogy. “Josue combined a rigorous pragmatism with a broad vision of what could be done to improve complex medical services, and surgery especially, in settings in which such endeavors are too often dismissed as impractical, not cost-effective, or even (absurdly enough) unnecessary."

"We honor Josue by making sure that such an important mission outlives him or any other one person."

– Paul Farmer

Read Paul's eulogy for Josue


“What this means for us, beyond our grief," Farmer's euology continued, "is that we must fight hard to make sure that Josue’s vision of equitable surgical services for the poor is one that remains front and center, not just in Haiti but in those other regions, regions full of people in need, too readily written off as unsuitable for surgery. We honor Josue by making sure that such an important mission outlives him or any other one person."

Countless other organizations and people joined ZL in mourning Dr. Josue, both as a skilled and visionary doctor and as a dedicated and generous friend and mentor.

“Josue really has been a hero and an angel to those of us who were committed to supporting and strengthening surgical services in Haiti,” wrote Ellen Agler of Operation Smile, a charity that works with ZL to treat children born with cleft palates and facial deformities. “His efforts directly transformed the lives of so many people in need and inspired so many of us to work even harder in our fight for surgical equity,” she wrote in an email to ZL staff.

Josue was 38 years old, a native of Carrefour, Haiti. He leaves behind his wife, two daughters, parents, siblings and extended PIH family. His second daughter was born three weeks after his death. She comes into a world made better and more humane by her father, said Paul Farmer. “It is not fair that she will never meet her father,” he added. “And this is another reason, surely, that we must honor Josue's memory and mission.”

If you would like to contribute to a memorial fund to support Josue’s family and the legacy of his work, please visit: https://donate.himsprescription.com/page/contribute/josue.

If you would prefer to donate by mail, send a check with "Dr. Josue Augustin" in the memo line to:

Partners In Health
P.O. Box 845578
Boston, MA 02284-5578


[posted September 2009]