A leading figure in the development of childrens’ health care in Cambodia has died following a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
Dr Eugene Tragus, 76, a surgical consultant at the Angkor Hospital for Children and well-known figure in Siem Reap, died on Tuesday in the intensive care unit of Royal Angkor International Hospital.
Dr William Housworth, executive director at Siem Reap’s Angkor Hospital for Children, yesterday paid tribute to ‘Doc Gene’, as he was popularly known in expat circles.
“Dr Eugene Tragus was instrumental in the development and success of Angkor Hospital for Children,” Dr Housworth said. “He brought with him to Cambodia years of practical hands on surgical and medical skills which he tirelessly taught to the Cambodian staff.”
Originally from Texas, in the United States, Tragus also brought his expertise in heart surgery. In the 1960s, he was a resident at the prestigious Ivy League University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
In 2009. Tragus told The Post: “In the 1960s we started doing hole-in-the-heart operations. It was new at that time, I was very fortunate to be there ... I scrubbed with the biggies.”
Tragus’ dynamic volunteer history with Angkor Hospital for Children began in 2001, when he became director of the emergency medicine department. Since 2004, he had worked as a surgical consultant.
The move to Cambodia came after his wife died from cancer. He remarried six years ago to local nurse, Sokunthea Lem, who last year also became a doctor.
His mission was to see a cardiac unit established in Siem Reap.
This took a major step forward in 2009 when a surgical team from Singapore undertook the first open heart surgery there, opening the door to the creation of a heart facility.
“As a longstanding board member of Friends without a Border, [a fundraising NGO attached to the hospital] he oversaw all hospital and related programmes including its educational components. In this role, he
was instrumental in not only the hospital itself, but in the development of improving healthcare infrastructure in Cambodia,” said Dr Housworth.