A Fateful Encounter
On February 1, 2016, Alex Bozzette, our former Ecuador Project Coordinator for our pilot study, passed away suddenly. Alex became involved with Alma Sana in January 2013 when my sister Rachel, who was friends with him at Georgetown University, recommended him to design our colorful info guides for mothers and nurses in Peru and Ecuador to supplement the bracelets. He did a fantastic job and when I mentioned I was hiring a Project Coordinator to manage the study on-site, he jumped at the opportunity and put in his application. During our interview, we ended up talking for three hours. It was much longer than any other interview I had conducted and it was fascinating discussing everything from how best to design programs that reached people in remote areas to measuring the impact of new interventions.
He was passionate about improving health care for people in disadvantaged areas and he was committed to joining our team. At the time, Alex was completing his Master of Science in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. He spoke with the school and managed to get approval to take a leave of absence, just before final exams, to join Alma Sana for 8 months. He would plan to take his exams and complete his thesis the following year, and he didn't think twice about that decision. I met Alex in person in Cusco, Peru in May 2013 where our entire team met for training and beginning enrollment in Cusco before Alex and I, and Alma Sana's VP and Grants Administrator, Trish, went to Ecuador to launch the study there. Alex's commitment and enthusiasm were invaluable to forming a positive, hardworking team spirit, and his self-discipline and humanity were the reason our Ecuador site, where he was our sole team member managing Ministry of Health nurses, were critical to our success. He documented his time in Ecuador with beautiful photos of the nurses, mothers, babies, and rural clinics that became his daily life and showed the world our bracelets in action. After our study ended in January 2014, Alex returned to London to complete his Master's degree. Yet Alex regularly stayed in touch with me, connecting me to funding opportunities, sharing positive updates on his life in Burundi, Sweden, London, and Vermont, and offering his support wherever possible. I knew Alex would remain a close friend for life, as we supported each other in our paths to change the world.
I was lucky to see Alex again in December 2015, when he stayed with me on his cross-country road trip from his hometown of San Diego to Burlington, Vermont. He loved his new role and colleagues at Population Media Center and life in Vermont. An image I often have of Alex is wearing a backpack, confidently smiling, and with spunk in his step, walking off into the world, ready to take on his next big adventure. In the days leading up to his passing, he told me he was excited to review the final version of our research paper before submission. Sadly, he never got the chance to. We have dedicated the paper to Alex's life and memory, to thank him for his incredible legacy and contributions to saving children's lives.
The Legacy of a Life Well-lived
I don’t know how to make sense of this tragic loss. Alex Bozzette was truly one of those rare people you meet who inspires you to be a more joyful and more grateful human being simply by interacting with him. His intense curiosity of how the world worked and what was important to people - and that infectious laugh that made the journey of finding out so fun - was a daily inspiration to me. He told the best stories and made you feel like you were right there with him. I gleefully looked forward to the fantastical tales of the wonderful people he met around the world and colorful adventures that brought them together.
Alex walked through life with a deeply rooted and focused sense of purpose, and that purpose manifested itself into pragmatic action. He questioned the state of health care because he knew the world could do better, and it was his mission to improve the health, safety, and happiness of people in underresourced environments. I deeply admired and respected Alex for his strength of character, his integrity, and his ability to see the best in every person and every situation. He was his own person – resolved, genuine, charismatic, and magnetic. He made the good times even better and the bad times something we’d get through together with persistence, optimism, and creative problem-solving. Just by being himself, Alex inspired me to become a better person and a better public health professional. He was passionate about the many dedicated people and immersive experiences he cultivated that enabled him to learn about and change the world. His conviction in his beliefs of equality and access, his conscientiousness, and his earnest attention to detail impelled him to naturally go the extra mile to do a task as thoroughly as possible so the project would have the greatest impact on the people it aimed to serve.
Alex impacted my life profoundly. He was one of the first people to join Alma Sana Inc. and was a major reason for its success – he designed our info guides, managed our Ecuador project site, and fostered a strong sense of camaraderie on our team. I was proud to call him a close friend, constant advocate, and lifelong ally in the long but important fight to improve people’s health. Although his life was cut short, unquestionably Alex had the impact he had always intended – he saved lives, improved health outcomes, and deeply touched the souls of thousands of people. Alex, I can’t believe you’re gone… but know you were deeply loved and you will be in our hearts and minds forever. We will carry your torch for you and we’ll see you again.
- Lauren Braun, founder