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[October 28, 2010]  

SUNY Downstate’s Dr. Jean Tropnas to Receive Honor from American Psychiatric Association Assembly  


The Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has chosen Jean Tropnas, MD, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, to receive the 2010 Profile of Courage Award. The award will be given to Dr. Tropnas for his “exceptionally meritorious services with the relief efforts in Haiti” following the January 2010 earthquake. 

A cofounder and the first president of the Haitian-American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Tropnas made three trips to Haiti following the earthquake to organize relief efforts. He also spearheaded SUNY Downstate’s outreach to the large Haitian-American community in Brooklyn. Dr. Tropnas will receive the award at the APA Assembly meeting in November in Washington, DC.

Dr. Tropnas’s sister died in the earthquake of January 12, 2010.  In spite of this terrible personal loss, he reached out to help members of the Haitian community near SUNY Downstate cope with the loss of close family members and friends. 

During his visits to Haiti, Dr. Tropnas ran supportive group sessions for medical clinic staff and teachers at an elementary school who continued treating patients and teaching young children, despite suffering their own heart-breaking losses. 

Traveling to earthquake-devastated areas of Haiti without the support of any relief organization, Dr. Tropnas used his own funds to purchase items for schoolchildren.  During one of his trips to Port-au-Prince, he visited four camps for displaced, homeless people, ignoring the dangers of structural hazards, high temperatures, and gang activity. 

Dr. Tropnas also took the lead in Downstate’s outreach to the large Haitian American community in Brooklyn. He worked closely with religious leaders and arranged for visits to churches by psychiatrists, psychiatry residents, medical students, other health professionals, and counselors.  Downstate provided blood pressure measurements, informational material on health and legal services, and screening for identifying people in need of mental health services.  Those who needed follow-up psychiatric services were given referrals or followed up by Downstate personnel. Dr. Tropnas obtained a service grant to continue these efforts.

Dr. Tropnas’s service to the Haitian American community long predates the earthquake.  After his training in psychiatry, he recognized the health care disparities among Haitians living in Brooklyn and decided, with the help of other Haitian-American psychiatrists, to create the Haitian-American Psychiatric Association. He became the first president of this Association, which has been reaching out to the Haitian community since 1984 providing education, health fairs, and pro-bono treatment to uninsured patients.   

In nominating Dr. Tropnas for this award, his colleague at Downstate, Ramaswamy Viswanathan, MD, DSc, associate professor of clinical psychiatry and director of the consultation-liaison service, wrote, “Jean is an exemplary psychiatrist who has courageously reached out to help a poor and discriminated community facing repeated adversity, and he has done so disregarding his comfort and safety, even when he himself was dealing with losses.”

SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.
SUNY Downstate ranks eighth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.