Dr. Alfio Rausa, former Regional Health Officer for Districts 1 and 3 for the state Department of Health and chairman of the Fannie Lou Hamer Foundation board, has passed away.
Freddie White-Johnson, M.P.P.A, Founder, President of the Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation and Program Director for MS Network for Cancer Control and Prevention, was very close to Rausa and called his passing, “A big loss to public health. People don’t realize how much he did for the citizens of this state.”
Rausa died at his home sometime before 7 a.m. on Jan. 3 at the age of 81. Dubbed a legend in Mississippi public health services, Rausa had overseen public health in the Delta for 51 years before retiring at the end of June 2017 as part of the restructuring of the Mississippi Department of Health.
In June, the department reduced its regional offices by two-thirds, down to three districts instead of the nine originals with a fourth public health office remaining in Greenwood that is not tied to a specific region.
The New York native said then that he had been talking about retirement for 15 years, and the reorganization just made his decision easier, adding that a fractured femur he had suffered a short while back and being in his 80’s at the time, he couldn’t see himself traveling across 30 counties.
Dr. Robert “Bob” Travnicek, retired District 9 Health Officer said Rausa spent his life making sure everyone had a life that was better, “He enriched everybody’s life,” Travnicek said.
He too is in his 80’s and said he and Rausa, who he affectionately called “Alfie,” came to the Delta around the same time in 1966. “He was no ordinary health officer, he had a passion for helping people,” Travnicek added, he helped thousands, even tens of thousand. “He had a mission in the Delta to help everyone he could, in my opinion he fulfilled his mission,” he said.
Mary Ann Stevens, former mayor of West, Miss. and retired representative of District of the 48 Mississippi Legislature, called Rausa a “Brilliant person with a brilliant mind.” The two worked together to create a clinic in the town of West, back in the 70’s, Stevens said the area had lost its healthcare providers and they partnered with the department of Health Education and Welfare on a nurse-run pilot program, “It was my idea but he was the brain behind my brainstorm,” she said.
Stevens said all Rausa wanted to do was to help other people, “There are not enough accolades to describe Dr. Rausa and his contributions to health,” said Stevens. Travnicek concurred that Rausa, “Was the best health officer in the state.” He was preparing the eulogy for Rausa and summed up his thoughts as such, “He lived out a lot of things in his everyday life that other people just talk about, Alfie was my bestie, I’ve lost my bestie,” Travnicek said.
White-Johnson also credits Rausa with having helped develop the Golden Age Nursing Home in Greenwood.