Despite the treacherous weather Friday evening, employees at New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and friends and supporters showed their love and respect for a retired Haitian-born doctor at a gala celebration at Glen Terrace in Brooklyn.
Patrons showered praise on Dr. Jacques Mathieu, 67, who recently retired from DOHMH’s Ft. Greene Chest Center (FGCC), downtown Brooklyn, after 25 years of uninterrupted DOHMH service.
They described him, among other superlatives, as humble, quiet, caring, helpful, kind-hearted, compassionate, dedicated and awesome.
“You have touched a lot of people,” Jamaican-born Errol Robinson, director of clinical operations at DOHMH’s Bureau of Tuberculosis Control (BTC), told Dr. Mathieu in his keynote address. “Dr. Mathieu was very humble, very quiet.
“Dr. Mathieu being humble shows someone as they [him / her] are,” added Robinson, who has over 30 years of public health experience with DOHMH. “Thank you on behalf of TB Control. You showed that in the work you did.
“I thank you for the services you provided,” Robinson continued. “More often, we don’t get to tell people ‘thank you.’”
David Cappelli — FGCC administrative manager, who has been working with DOHMH for over 25 years — also complimented Dr. Mathieu for his “many years of service,” stating that Dr. Mathieu was “instrumental in the fight to eliminate TB (tuberculosis) in New York, especially here in Brooklyn.
“When I think of Dr. Mathieu, these words best describe him: Kind-hearted, compassionate, dedicated, a true healer,” Cappelli said. “He was always in good spirits, despite how busy the facility was, how many patients he served or how overworked he may have been.
“He would never utter an unkind word, and would always take another patient,” he added. “I am afraid that his departure has created a void that may never be filled.”
Cappelli also conveyed regrets that Dr. Jahendra Shah, physician-in-charge at FGCC, could not attend the ceremony because he was celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary.
Kendra Romeo, the Guyanese-born principal administrative aide at FGCC, said Dr. Mathieu was a
“a valued member of our team.
“His dedication to staff, patients and his profession always showed,” she said. “He was a very special caring doctor. He will be sorely missed by both staff and patients. I want to wish Dr. Mathieu a joyous and enjoyable retirement.”
Retiree Dr. Fritz Boutin, who worked with Dr. Mathieu at FGCC, said he was “gratified” to attend the event, stating that his former colleague was very humble, that he never complained, and that he always exhibited “respect and dignity.”
Carol Randall, who with Haitian-born Nurse Gracita Marcellus-Coq, organized the event, noted that the blustery, cold and snowy weather “did not stop people from coming out to show their outpouring of love for Dr. Mathieu.
“I was proud and blessed to be in the midst of the celebration,” she said. “Dr. Mathieu was well deserving of all the honors and accolade he received. Those that didn’t make it really missed out on a great event.”
Besides tributes from colleagues, friends and supporters, poems were read by Donna Budai, BTC training coordinator, and Nelson King, who served as Master of Ceremonies.
Ken Alston, Jr. performed two selections in tenor/counter-tenor; Marcellus-Coq and Randall presented Dr. Mathieu with a special gift; and FGCC employee Gregory Usenbor and Lisa Derrick, chief-of-staff for Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte (D-42nd A.D), presented Dr. Mathieu with a plaque and proclamation, respectively.
“When I look at retirement, I look at it as a transition, and you are starting something great to enjoy the world,” Derrick told Mathieu before presenting the proclamation on behalf of her boss. “I hope you get to enjoy that.
“There’s something that really stood out, when I read your bio,” she added. “To me, that signifies the character you are — humble.”
Jacques J. Mathieu was born on Nov. 15, 1950 in Terrier Rouge, Haiti. He attended medical school at State University of Haiti School of Medicine, Port-au- Prince, the capital, receiving his medical degree in 1977.
Later that year through 1980, Dr. Mathieu enlisted in the residency program in pulmonary medicine, Tuberculosis Control, at State University of Haiti Sanatorium Hospital.
He was a resident in internal medicine at Brooklyn Hospital and Lincoln Hospital in Bronx from 1982 – 1984; and a resident in general and preventive medicine and public health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine/ NYC Dept. of Health from 1990 – 92.
From 1982-84, Dr. Mathieu also worked at Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn as a staff physician, and at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital from 1987 – 1990.
In 1990, Dr. Mathieu received a Master’s in Public Health from Hunter College, City University of New York.
That same year, he accepted a position as a city medical specialist with BTC, and provided services at several chest centers, but was stationed at FGCC.
Cappelli said Dr. Mathieu was “instrumental in treating the diverse immigrant population, especially in Brooklyn during the TB peak epidemic years in the early 1990’s.”
“He quickly assumed the position of physician-in-charge at the Ft. Greene Chest Center and remained in that position until 2004,” he said. “He continued to treat TB after that point.
“One would think his success was attributed to his education and language skills, particularly French, Creole and Spanish,” he added. “However, it was his sincerity, compassion and desire to heal that led to his success with all patients.”
Among family members who attended the gala were his wife, the former Renee Cadet, of 38 years; his son, Julio and his fiancée Sue; Renee’s sister, Solange, and Solange’s daughter, Huguette.
“Most people say I’m quiet because I always leave space for others to shine,” said Dr. Mathieu in his acceptance speech. “I stand here tonight not for me but because of team effort.”
He complimented his family, including his wife, and all with whom he worked over the years, and praised God for seeing him through good and challenging times.
“I can tell you that I’m a blessed man, and God is taking care of me,” he said. “I look forward to doing some interesting things in life. For you, I will not forget this moment.”