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Association News
Assembly Honors Psychiatrist's Role in Haiti's Recovery
Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 1 page 7-14

Jean Tropnas, M.D., left his native Haiti to practice medicine in the United States several decades ago, but his Haitian roots remain deeply embedded. Soon after a catastrophic earthquake devastated that poverty-stricken nation last January 12, killing more than a quarter million people, including his sister, Tropnas returned to his native land to organize relief efforts and lend his medical and mental health expertise to a population in dire need of both.

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Brooklyn, N.Y., psychiatrist Jean Tropnas, M.D., received the APA Assembly's Profile of Courage Award for his efforts in his native Haiti after that country was devastated by an earthquake last January. Ignoring warnings about the perils that awaited him, and often using his own funds, Tropnas organized relief efforts and provided mental health expertise. 

Credit: David Hathcox

His efforts, funded in large part with his own money, earned him the APA Assembly's Profile of Courage Award, which was presented to him at the Assembly's meeting in Washington, D.C., last November.

In presenting the award, Ramaswamy Viswanathan, M.D., D.Sc., Tropnas' colleague in the Department of Psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., noted that Tropnas traveled to postearthquake Haiti despite warnings about the dangers that he would face there, including crumbling buildings, rampant crime, and the threat of infections. In Haiti, he ran support groups for medical clinic staff and for elementary school teachers.

In addition to his work in Haiti, Tropnas also reached out to provide what assistance he could to Brooklyn's large community of Haitian immigrants, many of whom lost relatives and friends in the quake.

In accepting the honor, Tropnas said he was "humbled" and wondered if he was really worthy of it. The truly courageous people, he emphasized, are "all of the volunteers who put the desire to help ahead of their personal safety" and the traumatized, severely depressed Haitians who manage to survive despite a continuing series of disasters and setbacks.

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Assembly members line up at one of the microphones in the meeting room to weigh in on an issue under debate. (The number signs indicate where members from each APA Area are seated for the meeting.) 

Credit: David Hathcox

Assembly representatives also voted on a number of action papers on issues important to psychiatric practice in the next few years. Among these, the Assembly voted to

Some Assembly members expressed outrage over statements Tutu has made in speeches and interviews that are critical of Israel and, according to the action paper, "defamatory, distorted, inflammatory, and one-sided." Some members also labeled Tutu's statements as anti-Semitic. He has compared Israel's treatment of its Arab citizens to the pernicious Apartheid policy that brutally discriminated against South Africa's black citizens. Tutu has also been in the vanguard of a move to urge people and organizations to boycott Israel, calling, for example, for the Cape Town Opera to cancel a visit to Israel, just as many arts organizations wouldn't perform in South Africa during its Apartheid era.

Assembly members opposed to rescinding the invitation said, however, that the choice of a Convocation speaker has long been a prerogative of the APA president, and it would set a bad precedent to begin putting that decision to an Assembly vote because some members may object to stated views of the invitee. Many other Convocation speakers have voiced opinions with which APA members had considerable disagreement, and their presentations provided opportunities for greater dialogue and understanding.

Some cited the negative publicity that APA would face once word got out in the media that it was disinviting a renowned cleric who fought against injustice in his homeland for decades.

Several speakers noted that Tutu is often quoted as strongly advocating peace, reconciliation, and healing in troubled countries throughout the world and noted how these concepts have helped bring about positive change in South Africa. blacksquare

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Brooklyn, N.Y., psychiatrist Jean Tropnas, M.D., received the APA Assembly's Profile of Courage Award for his efforts in his native Haiti after that country was devastated by an earthquake last January. Ignoring warnings about the perils that awaited him, and often using his own funds, Tropnas organized relief efforts and provided mental health expertise. 

Credit: David Hathcox
Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jump

Assembly members line up at one of the microphones in the meeting room to weigh in on an issue under debate. (The number signs indicate where members from each APA Area are seated for the meeting.) 

Credit: David Hathcox

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