Dr. Vincent Echavé to receive the CMA's highest honour

    OTTAWA, Aug. 12 /CNW Telbec/ - On August 20, the Canadian Medical
Association (CMA) will present the 2008 F.N.G. Starr Award to Dr. Vincent
Echavé a renowned surgeon from Sherbrooke, Quebec.
    A surgeon at the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke and a
professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sherbrooke since
1979, Dr. Echavé has reflected the highest ideals of Canadian medicine
throughout his exemplary career.
    Dr. Vincent Echavé stands out as a remarkable physician who regularly
stepped outside the comfort zone of a modern Canadian teaching hospital to
work with populations in crisis around the world. A passionate surgeon known
for his ability to solve complex and difficult cases, Dr. Echavé also has a
humanitarian vocation that he has pursued with conviction and commitment
through many surgical missions with Doctors without Borders.
    "It is a great honour to receive this award. I accept it in the name of
the people for whom I have always worked: the most disadvantaged who suffer in
the world, especially the victims of war, famine and natural disaster," said
Dr. Echavé.
    Named for Frederic Newton Gisborne Starr (1867-1934), a former Secretary
General of the CMA, the F.N.G. Starr Award has been described as the "Victoria
Cross of Canadian Medicine." First given in 1936 to Sir Frederick Banting,
Dr. Charles Best and Dr. James Collip, this medal represents the highest award
that the CMA can bestow upon one of its members in recognition of outstanding
achievement. Dr. Echavé joins other great Canadian physicians who received
such an honor, amongst them Dr. Lucille Teasdale and Dr. Armand Frappier.
    From Basque origins and born in Havana, Dr. Echavé's adolescence was
shaped by the political upheaval surrounding the 1959 Cuban revolution. A few
years later, he went into exile in the United States. In his early 20s he made
his way to Spain, where he studied medicine at the University of Madrid and
graduated in 1965. He then went on to specialize in general and thoracic
surgery in Switzerland. In 1969, he immigrated to Canada and came to live in
    He did his internship at the faculty of medicine of the University of
Sherbrooke and his residency in general surgery at McGill University and at
Miami University. He earned a masters degree in experimental surgery at McGill
University in 1975. In 1976, he obtained his Canadian citizenship. He was a
fellow in vascular surgery in 1978 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and in
surgery of the esophagus in Munich, Germany, 1985.
    He joined the faculty of medicine at the University of Sherbrooke in 1979
as professor of surgery. There he headed the postdoctoral training program in
surgery until 2001. He was also head of general surgery from 1997 until 2002.
He has created the common curriculum in surgery and the anatomy laboratory at
the faculty of medicine. As a teacher he also took great pride in cultivating
a humanitarian vocation in his students.
    Dr. Echavé's research interests have included pancreatic regeneration,
vascular prostheses, and bronchial physiology. Because of his humanitarian
work he also had a clinical interest in war surgery and the particular
challenges of providing medical aid to victims of war trauma. In addition to
teaching in Québec, he has carried out educational missions in Africa,
Southeast Asia and Latin America. He was involved in a surgical mission for
the University of Sherbrooke in the Democratic Republic of Congo. An
instructor for the Canadian Network for International Surgery, in December
2007 he traveled to Mali to teach surgical techniques at the University of
    Dr. Echavé first became involved with Doctors without Borders in 1990, a
commitment that has led him to use his surgical skills in some of the most
impoverished parts of the world under the most horrific conditions. Medical
aid missions have taken him to places most of us know only from the nightly
news reports on conflict, disaster and human suffering: Rwanda, Burundi,
Ethiopia, Haiti, Bangladesh, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Colombia, the
Congo Democratic Republic, the Ivory Coast, Tchad and Darfour, to name a few.
He has also been a member of the Canadian board of directors of Doctors
without Borders.
    "His spirit of generosity and compassion are a source of inspiration to
all health professionals," said CMA president Dr. Brian Day. "His phenomenal
work with the most disadvantaged, his conviction that all human beings deserve
the best care regardless of their condition, and his tireless efforts to focus
attention on social injustices and inequalities make this great humanitarian a
role model for an entire generation of future physicians."
    His talent, passion, and international contributions to the humane
practice of medicine have earned him many honors. In 1999 he was recognized by
the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada for his work in medical
education and community service, and two years later his humanitarian
contribution was singled out by Doctors without Borders. In 2001 the Quebec
Medical Association acknowledged his remarkable work by conferring its
Prestige Award. He has also been honored by the Fondation du Centre
hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke and the Régiment des Fusiliers de
Sherbrooke; by the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, which bestowed the
Bâtisseur du Québec award in 2002; the Prix d'excellence of the medical
council of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke in 2003; and the
Canadian Association for Medical Education Certificate of Merit in 2005.
    Recently he was invited to preside over a provincial government working
group exploring issues around licensing international medical graduates to
practice medicine in Quebec.
    "My work with Médecins Sans Frontières has enabled me to live my dream of
helping those who are most in need and, in this way, of putting human life
above all other considerations," said Dr. Echavé. "I embraced the
international dimension of our profession so that I could experience medicine
as a fundamental human desire. My greatest wish is that we remain firm in our
resolve not to tolerate inhumanity and refuse to accept injustice as common
place in a world threatened with violence."

    Dr. Vincent Echavé will become the 43rd recipient of the CMA F.N.G. Starr
Award at a special ceremony at the Sheraton Centre in Montreal, QC as part of
the CMA's 141st annual meeting.

For further information:

For further information: Lucie Boileau, Manager, Media Relations, 1
(800) 663-7336, (613) 731-8610, ext. 1266, Mobile: (613) 447-0866

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