First published in SPRING 2016 “TOP 10 HAITIAN Business Leaders in South Florida” edition.
On Becoming a Doctor, Lawyer, Pilot, Actor, and Getting an MBA
By Sarah Brutus
Q: Where were you born?
A: I was born in Port Au Prince, Haiti. I grew up in Haiti until the age of 17. Then I came to the United States and lived in Chicago, where I went to college and medical school.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I went to college at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where I received my Bachelors degree. Then I applied and got into medical school in Chicago as well. Going to medical school was very expensive. My parents didn’t have any money. So I got a scholarship from the US government that would pay my schooling if after I was done I would work in an underserved area. When they asked me where I wanted to go, I suggested Miami. At the time a lot of refugees were coming in, and since I spoke the language I would be the most helpful there. So I was placed to work at the Borinquen Clinic, and I worked there for 4 years.
“When they asked me where I wanted to go, I suggested Miami. At the time a lot of refugees were coming in and since I spoke the language I would be the most helpful there.”
Q: What effect did that experience have on you?
A: Working there allowed me to really start getting involved in the community and different organizations that focused on Haitian culture and advancement. In Chicago we didn’t have that, so it was a very exciting experience. After my 4 years of service, I was asked if I wanted to return to Chicago, and I decided to stay in Miami.
Q: What was your first job?
A: When I was in college, I worked in a nursing home in the kitchen, doing dishes and mopping floors and I did it very well. I always tell people it’s not the kind of job that you, do but making sure that you do it well. They promoted me into taking care of the patients. That is how I developed passion for my patients. My second job was working in a shoe store. I used to do that during the summer. I did everything.
“When I was in college, I worked in a nursing home in the kitchen doing dishes and mopping floors, and I did it very well.”
Q: How did you start your medical practice?
A: The original office was a small part of a shopping center. The doctor who owned it was retiring and I told him I was interested in purchasing the office from him. I came up with a down-payment and he financed the rest for me. The practice kept growing and growing, and eventually I bought the entire shopping center to expand my practice.
Q: Where do you see the future of your medical practice?
A: I am actually in the process of building a 12,000-square-foot facility where I am going to move my current practice. I will use my current building as a multipurpose facility that will have dental, eye exams and so on. That way this will be a one-stop shop for patients. I really enjoy seeing my patients and I want to continue to do that for as long as I can.
Q: What has been an aiding factor in your success?
A: The community has really supported me over the years. If it wasn’t for them, I would not be so successful in my practice. I also think every time someone told me I couldn’t do something, they created a driving force for me to prove them wrong and that I was able to do it.
“The community has really supported me over the years. If it wasn’t for them, I would not be so successful in my practice.”
Q: Tell us about other degrees that you hold.
A: After I opened my practice, I a doctor friend of mine told me that he was taking classes for an MBA at the University of Miami. I decided to take some classes as well, because medical school doesn’t teach you anything about running the business of a clinic. While I was in my MBA program, I took a health law class and found it to be very interesting. I was single at the time, so I decided to invest my time into getting another degree. So I also completed my law degree. It took me about three years. I would practice as a doctor during the day and go to school at night until I completed my law degree. I don’t practice fully, but occasionally I will be called in as an expert witness to give testimony in court.
Q: Tell us about your time in the military.
A: Since this country has been so good to me, I decided the best way to give back was to join the military as a reservist. I joined the Air Force. I retired 2 years ago. I was a flight surgeon. It’s a physician pilot and we would fly F-16 planes. I would take over the plane if something happened to the main pilot. I served on the homestead base. I became a colonel as well.
Q: Describe your interest in politics.
A: I ran for the US Congress twice. I got very close to winning the seat. I may decide to go back into politics in the future. I’m not sure, but I love my community and would like to serve the community in any capacity that I can. I’m not doing it for myself. But serving community is a calling. There’s a lot of problems in the community. I believe that I can make a significant contribution to change the direction the community is going in.
Q: What advice would you give someone who would like to be involved in the community?
A: There are a lot of great organizations out there that are doing amazing things. Choose one that you really like and that you are passionate about, and join it and participate. Choose one where you can make a difference. One where you can give your time and do it in a significant way.
Q: How did you get started in movies?
A: Growing up, I loved to watch movies with Elvis Presley and Johnny Holiday. I used to stare in the mirror and act by myself, and my family used to think I was crazy. I did a few commercials. Then one day this gentleman came to me and said he was doing a movie and he was looking for someone with my profile. I thought he was kidding. I went to the casting. I was cast. It was a great movie – Wind of Desire. People always recognize me from that movie. I get more recognition from that than being a physician, and I have been a physician all my life. I went on and produced some of my own movies. I have done a total of 5 movies. I also did American movies.
Q: Tell us about your family.
A: I’m married. I met my wife here are my office. She’s a very smart lady, a nurse. I’ve been married now for 16 years. I have 2 wonderful children. My daughter, Mya, is 11 and my son, Rudy Jr., is 14. Both of them are very smart. We are raising and guiding them to be productive members of society. My son wants to go into finance. My daughter wants to be a veterinarian.
Q: What is your advice to a young person trying to grow their wealth?
A: As a professional you can make a decent living, but that does not automatically make you rich. However, you can take the income you make and invest it into meaningful projects that can help you grow your finances. You have to choose the right project. I only invest in projects where I know the people personally. Sometimes you lose, but there a lot of opportunities to gain. Invest in something you know and something you have done your research on.
“As a professional you can make a decent living, but that does not automatically make you rich. However, you can take the income you make and invest it into meaningful projects that can help you grow your finances.”
Q: What is the best advice you would give to a young person who looks up to you?
A: That’s a great question. I always try to participate and speak at school fairs so I can speak to the children. I tell them that they should at least make the effort and get 1 degree – at least one – because education is really power. People can take things from you, but they cannot take your knowledge. Also, everyone needs a great role model. I mentor and help a lot of students with recommendation letters. Also, respect your parents and teachers. Don’t take them for granted. They are there for you and want the best for you.
“People can take things from you, but they cannot take your knowledge.”