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Beloved doctor who worked on 9/11 cancer cases dies

By The Haitian Times 

Dr. Gérard Breton
Dr. Gérard Breton, who was instrumental in connecting the 9/11 first responder cancer cases to Ground Zero dust, passed away on June 22. / Photo provided by family.

Dr. Gérard Breton, who was instrumental in connecting the 9/11 first responder cancer cases to Ground Zero dust, passed away on June 22. He was 89.

Dr. Breton was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to humble origins, his family said in the death announcement. Through his intelligence and hard work, he became a doctor, eventually rising to become a forensic pathologist with the Ocean County Medical Examiner’s Office in New Jersey.

Dr. Breton became known for being the pathologist who led the autopsy of Detective James Zadroga, an NYPD detective and 9/11 first responder who died in January 2006 of respiratory disease.

The conclusion of the autopsy linked Zadroga’s death to exposure to ground zero dust, the first time this connection was established. Eventually, the United States Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, a fund and health program to help 9/11 responders. 


His professional contributions match the personal mark he left in the life of others.

“The overwhelming trait that I think my father had was that he was very kind,” said his daughter Myriam Breton Jones. “Everybody who ever met him would say how nice he was, how kind he was and how he would always have time for people.”

A lover of konpa, french music and of Opera, and passionate Haiti supporter who loved helping others, Dr. Breton was a member of the Association Médicale Haitienne a l’Etranger, or AMHE, which promotes the health interests of the Haitian community in the U.S.

Dr. Breton was fluent in French, proficient in Spanish with an intermediate knowledge of Greek and Latin, and a consummate soccer fan. He and his wife Yva Breton had gone to each World Cup since 1978, and his deep love of the sport pushed him to play at a local New Jersey team well into his 70s.

“‘I think I can be considered an athlete,’” he would often say, according to Breton Jones.


“So when he finished work, he came home and he was with his family,” Breton Jones. “So we always had his attention. His time. He was there for us. most proud of him. Especially his grandchildren.”

Dr. Breton is survived by his wife Yva Breton; his son Homère, and wife Lillian; his daughter Myriam Breton Jones, her husband Jeff Jones; and his beloved grandchildren, Rachel, Joshua and Élise.

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