NEW ORLEANS — Gen. Russel Honoré, commander of military relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina, was honored on Monday with an endowed professorship bearing his name at the Louisiana State University Health and Sciences Center School of Public Health.
The $100,000 endowment was fully funded by the AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies, a Philadelphia national provider of managed health care solutions.
The general’s cousin, Peggy Honoré, an associate professor of public health at the university, was named to fill the professorship.
School of Public Health Dean Elizabeth Fontham, who nominated Peggy Honoré, said that while it is somewhat unusual for a relative to take on both the fundraising and professorship role, Peggy Honoré was the obvious candidate, and “eminently qualified” in her work in the field of public health.
Peggy Honoré said she approached AmeriHealth with the opportunity of an endowment in the general’s name because she thought it important to acknowledge his contributions to the city’s recovery following Katrina. She said that her cousin has a passion for, and desire to make a difference in addressing public health challenges.
Gen. Honoré said that the biggest challenges faced in the aftermath of Katrina, and in the Northeast in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, are in ensuring access to health care for the most vulnerable, specifically the elderly, disabled, and poor.
Fontham noted the “contributions of two remarkable families” to public health in the state of Louisiana. Michael Rashid, president and CEO of Amerihealth described his own family’s connection and contribution to health care in the region. Rashid’s grandfather, David Raines, a businessman, community builder and philanthropist, is the namesake of the non-profit David Raines Community Health Centers in Shreveport.
Rashid said the decision to fully fund the endowment was an easy one. He praised Gen. Honoré’s discipline, compassion and his ability to bridge the gap between those most in need of care and those providing care. “He was able to save so many lives,” Rashid said, as well as “bring order to chaos.”
“We will remain indebted to him for many years,” Fontham said.
Honoré said that one of his most pressing concerns is in making sure that every American’s health records are part of an electronic database. He cited an elderly woman who was evacuated after Katrina and was asked what medication she was taking. The woman’s answer was “the red pill.” He said he hoped to see the students — the future leaders in health care — help to create the changes in policy and legislation that will one day mandate electronic health records.
Honoré also stressed the need for increased efforts in education and prevention. He said he knew the risks firsthand, as well as the effects of poverty on health care. A native of Lakeland in Pointe Coupee Parish, Honoré said he suffered major dental problems at a young age as a direct function of poverty. He also credited Charity Hospital in New Orleans as saving his life after a head injury sustained when he was 9 years old.
Also the survivor of cancer and a heart attack, he emphasized the need for better prevention and lifestyle habits, “having been a reformed person myself.”