Obituary: Sergio Edward Betancourt / AGH surgeon and doctor with Green Berets in Vietnam

March 1, 1935 - July 31, 2014


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Sergio Betancourt, a retired general surgeon at Allegheny General Hospital and an outspoken critic of top management during the spectacular collapse of the hospital’s parent company in the late 1990s, died July 31 of a neurological disorder in Newton, Mass. He was 79.

In letters to the editor published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Highland Park resident lamented the “incalculable hardship” wrought by the 1998 bankruptcy of the Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation, “a grand old hospital brought to its knees for want of oversight.”

In 1999, Dr. Betancourt picketed the Sewickley home of the former chief executive of AHERF, Sherif Abdelhak, calling on Mr. Abdelhak to atone for his involvement in the debacle. Three years later, Mr. Abdelhak, who at one time faced more than 1,500 criminal charges, was sentenced on a misdemeanor charge of misusing charitable funds.

Dr. Betancourt “was deeply honest and had the courage to struggle for his principles,” said his wife, Marilena.

Dr. Betancourt, a native of Panama City, Panama, who came to the United States as a young boy, earned bachelor’s and medical degrees from Cornell University before serving in Vietnam as a surgeon with the Green Beret unit of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.

It was on a stop in Hong Kong on his way back to the U.S. between tours in Vietnam that he met his wife, who was vacationing there from her home in Milan, Italy. The couple married in Italy in 1967 and moved to San Francisco.

In the 1970s, Dr. Betancourt joined Allegheny General, where he specialized in gastric bypass surgery used to help severely obese patients lose weight. He retired in 2010, and after falling ill, he and his wife moved in 2012 to Newton, Mass., to be near their children.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Betancourt is survived by his daughter Caterina and son Sergio, both of Newton, Mass.; a brother, Carlos, of New York City, and four grandchildren.

A funeral service is set for Aug. 5 at Newton Cemetery in Newton, Mass.


Patricia Sabatini: psabatini@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3066.


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