Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dr. Pierre Rouzier on What Shapes Your Life? Lessons from a Truly Inspiring Physician

This morning, my students and I were mesmerized by the brilliant lecture of Dr. Pierre Rouzier, who spoke in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class at the Isenberg School.

Dr. Rouzier is the team physician at UMass Amherst and a doctor at our University Health Services. He is also a published author and a great humanitarian.

For many years he has also assisted in triage at the Boston Marathon, and was there at the bombing in 2013.

Dr. Rouzier's lecture was on "What Shapes Your Life?"  and he spoke on life shaping events, inspiring people to move (more on this), and also finding greatness in every day.

Last summer, he with a friend, Roger Grette, bicycled across the US, while disseminating the news on his children's book, Henry Gets Moving. It was published in 2012.

He covered 4,100 miles from Oregon through Massachusetts.  It took them 10 weeks to accomplish this feat and he said to us that "he had a life-changing summer and doesn't know if he even needed his life to change." Along the way he spoke to children and to adults publicizing his book, which focuses, in a warm-hearted way, on why children need to move more and to eat right. He showed us wonderful video clips of children, farmers, cowboys, and others along the way that were swept by his energy, openness, and passion for helping people and would chant: Ride, Henry, Ride!   He noted that, in 1980, 7% of children ages 6 to 11 were obese and in 2008, 20% were. Clearly, children eat what is provided. He stated that the obesification of America is a big problem.

Dr. Rouzier said that he is now in the last quarter of his life and wanted to take on the challenge of biking across the US and had done a lot of reading of experiences of others who had succeeded at this challenge. During his journey, he had many instances of the sense of wonder of meeting new people, serendipitous encounters with UMass connections, praying that the sun would shine and it did and then it snowed, and finding new friends along the journey.  The motto "Endure or Enjoy" from the book, "From the Atlantic to the Pacific on Two Wheels," by Alex Alvarez, served him well and continues to.

Dr. Rouzier also spoke about getting accepted at Stanford U. for his undergraduate studies but decided to go to UC Davis, due to the cost, and then went on to med school at USC because they had 13 weeks of vacation (rather than 6 as at UC Irvine) and he had fallen in love with travel (and also had a scholarship to med school). He had been a kinesiology major and had spent his junior year abroad in Edinburgh and loved it. He shared with us some of his hitchhiking stories in Europe, which were hysterical. He likes to travel OPM using "other people's money," which makes a lot of sense. While in med school he traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea, where he spent some time helping out at a healthcare facility. There he met 2 UMass Medical School Worcester graduates and ended up having his residency there. He has been at UMass Amherst since 1997 and are we lucky!

He has worked at Native American healthcare facilities, and spent 5 years in Colorado where he wrote a book, "The Sports Medicine Patient Advisor," which was inspired by a farmer who had hurt himself lifting bales of hay and could not take the time to drive a distance for physical therapy and asked him to just write the instructions down and he would follow them. Indeed, as his friend Bruce Bynum says: "The right book will set you free!"

Two of the life-changing events that he spoke about were the Haiti earthquake, which struck on January 12,  2010, and the Boston Marathon bombing, which took place April 15, 2013. We have talked about these two disasters in the Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class. Dr. Rouzier's father is from Haiti and he was in Haiti 9 weeks after the earthquake and was engaged in "despair medicine." At that point, many were suffering from illnesses brought about by the shock and ensuing stress. He even met a relative who lived on a hill and was one of the lucky ones.

Since Dr. Rouzier is not only an athlete, and former teacher and coach, but also a sports medicine expert, he also, for many years, has assisted in triage at the Boston Marathon. He was there during the bombing and shared with us that there was blood everywhere, the smell of burning flesh, and a surreal scene. He had been accompanied by a friend, Chad, who had recently had a child. He used a belt as a tourniquet and a fence post for a splint for a broken leg. He treated a female who said: I am going to die here and noone will know where I am." He said that he did not get her name and that it bothered him and it was very hard to get closure. The marathon bicycle journey across the US last summer, I believe, helped him tremendously, and he said that while en route he received a text from one of the victims thanking him.

The healing process was assisted also by people reaching out to him, even on Facebook, and especially UMass students doing so. He said: "people like you saved me."  His heroism and selflessness were so apparent throughout his brilliant lecture and we are so indebted to Dr. Pierre Rouzier for showing us what constitutes a life well lived. His nonprofit Team Henry is even helping out an orphanage in Tanzania. And, next week, Dr. Rouzier will again be assisting at the Boston Marathon.

Towards the end of his lecture today, Dr. Rouzier emphasized the power of positive thinking. He said that: "when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."

He told us that we need to look in the eyes of others and be nice - this is a choice that you can make. He said that "a stranger is a friend you have not yet met" and that "in every day there is something great about it."

We did not have much time for questions and answers but I wish that we had.

I presented Dr. Rouzier with a gift from the Isenberg School and also a certificate thanking him for being a terrific Professor for a Day! I then snapped a group photo of students with him as a memento of a truly inspirational and very wise lecture, with numerous life lessons.