Erwin M. Vasquez, M.D. 64, passed away after a long illness, with his family by his side on Thursday, September 2, 2010. He was born in Margarita Island, Venezuela, and came to the U.S. in 1970 where he began his medical practice.
As an immigrant to America, he overcame many obstacles including learning and practicing medicine in a new language, and overcoming cultural bias and misunderstandings. As a result, he quickly recognized a disparity in healthcare in the community. Through hard work and determination. In the early 1990’s, through hard work and determination, he became the Chief of Staff at Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. He also built a cardiology and internal medicine practice as a sole practitioner, and he was on staff at five Broward County hospitals. In 1989, Doctor “V,” as he was lovingly known, created the Light Of The World Clinic, a free medical facility for the indigent in Broward County. With a cadre of dozens of volunteer physicians, they provided more than 12,000 people a year with medical care.
The clinic relies on small grants and donations to keep its doors open 5 days a week. Ever eager to spread the word, he created a learning center at the clinic where hundreds of medical students from five colleges and universities could learn cultural competency.
Dr. Vasquez taught as an adjunct professor on Ethnicity in Healthcare at Nova Southeastern University, and he created a scholarship program in his name for minority students entering the field of medicine at FAU.
Dr. Vasquez, a deeply devout Roman Catholic, was a voice for those who had none, and was an advocate for the poor, under-served and elderly. He created the Erwin and Elaine Vasquez Family Foundation at the Broward Community Foundation. It focuses on quality of life issues in the aging population with more than $100,000 yearly in donations to numerous agencies serving the elderly. His beloved wife, Elaine, was his partner in all their community endeavors which included the creation of Viva Broward, a Hispanic Heritage Celebration, and the publication of El Heraldo de Broward, the first Spanish-English newspaper in Broward county, a multicultural marketing company, and numerous charity events that raised millions for area non-profits.
He held numerous Board positions include being Chairman of the American Red Cross, serving on the FAU Foundation Board and being appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to the Governors’ Mansion Foundation. He also served on the Diversity Board for the Broward County School System, Sister Cities International, Symphony of the Americas, Museum of Discovery & Science and numerous medical boards.
“This was a man of faith, charity and hope for those with no voice,” said Elaine. “He believed that you gave until it hurt, and you never asked for anything in return because true giving, is one way.”
The recognition he received throughout his life was humbling to him; however, he accepted the recognition to serve as an example to those who say they “do not have time.”
His awards include The Point Of Light Award from Gov. Jeb Bush, The Jackie Onassis Award for Public Service in Washington, DC. One of only five awarded in the nation; The Miami Herald’s Spirit of Excellence Award, the First American Award, The City Of hope Humanitarian of the Year, and St. Luke’s Award as Doctor of the Year, to name a few.
Dr. Vasquez held the position of Lt. Commander with the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, and Pope John recognized him for his unending philanthropy and concern for the poor. His devotion to his religion and philanthropy came from the values and lessons he learned from his devoted mother. His faith and devotion to the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, endured in his heart and soul until the end.
Family was the core of who he was as a man, and he leaves behind his wife, Elaine, stepdaughter’s Kim, Kristen and Lisa, grandchildren Ashlyn, Skyler, Hunter, Kaitlyn and Kai. His devoted and close Venezuelan family included his brother Henry, sisters Milka, Judith and Elvia, and nieces and nephews, Gregorio Jose, Patricia, Claudia, Javier, Regulo, Gabriel, Valeska, Elvia, Freddy, Danny, Milka Alejandra, Tony, Xuxa, Josmil, Dasha, Mile and Judith Vanessa.
According to Matthew 25:45
“And the King will answer then, “I assure you:
Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.”
Dr. Vasquez answered the call with courage his entire beautiful life.