A Brief History Lesson on Hôpital L’Eglise de Dieu Réformée
(Post 2 of 3)
The Dream of Dr. Woodley St. Fleur
This is the 2nd blog in a 3-part series. Go back to read the first blog here: Dr. Pady’s Life of Service
This series focuses on the 3 doctors and 3 support staff who braved the elements in July of 2005 to perform the very first patient exams at Clinique L’Eglise de Dieu Réformée, the forerunner of what would eventually become Hôpital L’Eglise de Dieu Réformée. The stories of these three founding doctors are a microcosm of the life and plight of the political, economic, and social climate of Haiti. In this second of three blogs, I highlight Dr. Woodley St. Fleur.
Dr. Woodley St. Fleur was just finishing his surgery residency in Port au Prince, when one of his professors, Dr. Ernst Pady, asked him to assist in a new hospital project in rural Haiti. Curious, Dr. St. Fleur hesitantly agreed to accompany Dr. Pady to the village of Saintard, Haiti in the Arcahaie zone. He had never visited this area before so the scenes were a bit “out of the ordinary” for him, but still not beyond what he expected in rural Haiti. After hearing the shared vision for the clinic from local founder and pastor Jean Marie, missionary Phyllis Newby, and Dr. Pady, Dr. St. Fleur became passionate about bringing their visions to life. Week after week, Dr. St. Fleur would spend 2-3 days seeing patients for general consultations, with the hope of someday also being able to do surgical procedures. As the hospital continued to develop, so did his career. Dr. St. Fleur was the consulting surgeon to some government officials, as well as consulting surgeon for at least 2 other hospitals in Port au Prince. He no longer needed to spend his time making the long, and sometimes dangerous, trip to Saintard to assist at the small clinic and developing hospital. But he genuinely wanted to help. He received calls after hours. He took referrals and performed surgery for those who did not have the means to pay him. He sent potential employees to the Saintard facility when help was needed. His work ethic towards his tasks at the hospital was unmatched, but even more impressive was the love and care Dr. Woordley St. Fleur put on display when he walked through the doors.
In the beginning months of 2020, Dr. St. Fleur found an opportunity to obtain a visa and move to join much of his family in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He had hesitated to make this move because his years of study in medicine and his specialty training in surgery would not be recognized for licensure in the US. As he saw the continued economic downturn and social upheaval damaging the infrastructure in Haiti, Dr. St. Fleur apologized to the staff at the hospital in Saintard and left for the United States. When he arrived, he continued to consult with the staff at the hospital on surgical cases, again honoring his vows to help the small hospital in Saintard survive. In order for him to find his niche in the US, Woodley took a job as an orderly in a hospital in Massachusetts. His hope was to use this as a way to begin his journey back to becoming a physician in his new home. As his time in the US continued, Dr. St. Fleur continued to spend more and more time at the hospital, doing whatever he could during a time when the COVID epidemic was causing all hospitals to face unprecedented challenges.
Tragically, word filtered to the hospital early in 2021 that Dr. St. Fleur had contracted COVID. A few weeks passed and his family shared that he had a severe case and was in the same hospital where he worked as an orderly, but now as a patient. After a few more weeks, we learned that Dr. St. Fleur had succumbed to respiratory complications from a COVID 19 infection.
Dr. Woodley St. Fleur was a young, intelligent, and talented surgeon with a bright future ahead of him. The situation in Haiti had caused him to seek refuge and a new direction in a place that seemingly offered a greater level of hope for the future. He never gave up on striving for more success—success for his family, success in his career, success for his patients, and success for the little hospital that had captured his heart when he was a young surgeon. We are thankful to Dr. Woodley St. Fleur for his steadfast determination, supporting us beyond what seemed possible.
May Hôpital L’Eglise de Réformée continue to be the kind of hospital that he dreamt it to be!