Globe-trotting MDs left a legacy of compassion
Posted on Monday, April 27, 2020
The marriage between Anna Maria Guidara and Roger Brault spanned two countries, two cultures, and two languages. It was a fitting start to a career that took the married doctors around the globe, tending to people of many different cultures, and letting the wisdom of those cultures influence their own medical practice.
Today, the legacy of the philanthropic doctors continues through the Dr. Roger Brault and Dr. Anna Maria Brault scholarship, an endowed fund that distributes over $15,000 annually to medical students at the University of Ottawa. To date, over 100 emerging physicians and surgeons have benefited, not merely from the Brault’s financial assistance, but from their example of serving others.
"Enveloped by staggering amounts and degrees of suffering at home and around the world, my wife and I had a burning desire to do something that would leave an indelible imprint on the soul of the world," said Dr. Roger Brault upon the creation of the endowed scholarship. "We spent our entire careers acting on that desire.”
Anna Maria and Roger met as students at the University of Ottawa’s medical school in the 1950s. She was an American born in Boston; he was a French Canadian. They married in 1954 while still in school, and were named co-valedictorians of their graduating class in 1957. He delivered his valedictory speech in French; she, in English.
After graduating, the Braults interned in Toledo, Ohio, then moved to Hawaii in 1958 and took up positions as resident physicians at The Queen’s Medical Centre in Honolulu. Dr. Anna Brault was the first woman doctor to work at that hospital, and also assumed the position of Honolulu’s Health Director from 1961 to 1963. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. Anna Brault worked as a specialist in internal medicine, while Dr. Roger Brault practiced surgery.
As committed Catholics, the Braults believed in ministering to the less fortunate. This commitment led them to serve as medical missionaries with the Catholic Medical Mission and Project Concern International, an agency fighting infant mortality and malnutrition. From 1975 to 1978, they volunteered in clinics in Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, and India, including a month working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. This experience gave them new insights into life and death, as Dr. Anna Brault would later explain:
“The way we perceived death and the way death was perceived in developing countries was completely different,” she said in the 1980s. “People died with their families, and we really think we have seen a better way to die — the way I want to die, at home with someone I love at my side.”
They founded Hospice Hawaii in 1979, allowing many people facing terminal illnesses to die with dignity in a place of care, comfort and compassion. In 1979, Dr. Anna Brault was appointed director of the state health department's communicable disease division. After a little more than a year in this capacity, she became the city health director from 1981 to 1985, where she led a campaign to reduce smoking in public places.
Anna died in 1999 at age 85 in the hospice that she had founded, surrounded by friends and family. During her illness, she and her husband created the endowed scholarship at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine, which is now worth almost $500,000.
After his wife’s death, Dr. Roger Brault continued to live in Hawaii until his death in 2019. Both Anna Maria and Roger included the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine in their estate plans, ensuring the perpetuation of their scholarship.
“By setting up a fund that grants scholarships to budding physicians and surgeons, we're continuing our mission, encouraging new generations of humanitarians to make visible impressions of their own on this planet and its people,” Dr. Roger Brault said at the time of his gift. “That's a legacy Anna Maria and I wanted to leave to the world. I can think of none better."