Canadian Medical Association

Canadian Medical Association

August 12, 2008 10:55 ET

Dr. Vincent Echave to Receive the CMA's Highest Honour

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 12, 2008) - On August 20, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) will present the 2008 F.N.G. Starr Award to Dr. Vincent Echave 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. Echave has reflected the highest ideals of Canadian medicine throughout his exemplary career.

Dr. Vincent Echave 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. Echave 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. Echave.

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. Echave 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. Echave'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 Quebec.

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. Echave'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 Quebec, 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 Bamako.

Dr. Echave 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 Regiment des Fusiliers de Sherbrooke; by the Confederation des syndicats nationaux, which bestowed the Batisseur du Quebec 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 Medecins Sans Frontieres 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. Echave. "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 Echave 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.

Contact Information

  • Canadian Medical Association
    Lucie Boileau
    Manager, Media Relations
    1-800-663-7336 or 613-731-8610, ext. 1266
    Mobile : 613-447-0866