I had vaguely heard about Dr. Clarel Antoine. Wasn’t he the doctor to whom many heimishe women went for high-risk pregnancies? But I had no idea how popular and respected he was by people in our community. So when I received a text from a reader suggesting that we interview him, I filed it away as a maybe. Then I received an email from a young mother in Lakewood, a sometime contributor to Ami, with the same suggestion. Not only do many women in the Tri-State area use him, she informed me, but people come to him from all over the world. “I really think you should interview him,” she wrote.
I was intrigued, and I decided to meet the good doctor. A short time later, we had the honor of his presence in Ami’s offices. With his old-fashioned bowtie and soft Haitian lilt, he gives the impression of a 19th-century gentleman. But looks are deceiving, as he is actually one of the most prestigious and highly-trained OB/GYNs in the world, well-versed in the latest 21st-century medical procedures and breakthroughs.
I asked Dr. Antoine to tell me a little bit about his background.
“I was born in Haiti and attended seminary to become a priest from the age of nine to 14. I was always studying, so my mother encouraged me to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather, who was a doctor. He was actually a pediatrician as well as an attorney. After I came to the United States in 1966, I attended City College and then Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons for medical school. I did my training—both residency and chief residency—at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, and from there I went to New York University Medical Center, where I was a fellow in maternal-fetal medicine specializing in high-risk pregnancies. I’ve been affiliated with NYU ever since, and I opened my own practice in 1981. After Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, the medical center closed down for a few months, so I moved my practice to a brownstone a block away.
“Although I enjoyed all aspects of medicine and surgery in medical school, I wanted to focus on something more cheerful than the illnesses people tend to get as they grow older, so I decided to go into obstetrics and gynecology. Most of my patients have medical problems like diabetes and hypertension or are carrying multiples, but I take care of regular deliveries as well.”
Dr. Antoine’s entrance didn’t go unnoticed by several of our female employees. As soon as he walked in, our bookkeeper immediately came over to thank him. “You probably don’t remember me,” she said, “but a couple of years ago I had an emergency, and I tried to reach you. It was a weekend, and even though I wasn’t your patient you called me back, calmed me down and gave me the help I needed. You even checked up on me a few days later. I am so happy to be able to thank you in person!” Dr. Antoine was touched, but it was obvious that such expressions of gratitude are a common occurrence.
Then a young man whose wife is Dr. Antoine’s patient shared this:
“The first time I met Dr. Antoine was around 20 years ago, when my wife was having complications in her pregnancy. It was Labor Day weekend, and Dr. Antoine could have easily told me that his office was closed, especially since he wasn’t even my wife’s doctor. But that’s not who he is. He told us to go to the hospital and he would meet us there. As I was waiting for the elevator, Dr. Antoine walked in from the parking lot. He had never seen me before, but he figured everything out in a second. He walked over to me and said, ‘Don’t worry, Hashem is with you. Everything is going to be fine.’ He’s a very spiritual man.”
Another woman who is currently Dr. Antoine’s patient related the following:
“I also met Dr. Antoine over a three-day weekend. I was having a problem, so I called my OB/GYN. He said that there was nothing they could do about it anyway so I should wait until Tuesday for my regular appointment. I was frantic, so I called my sister, and she instructed me to call Dr. Antoine right away. I was embarrassed because I wasn’t his patient, but she urged me to get in touch with him. Dr. Antoine opened his office especially for me, did an ultrasound and said, ‘Everything is fine. Hashem is with you. Don’t worry.’