Dr. Claude Gervais-Wiss was “a very kind and caring lady” who always put her two young daughters first, according to a family friend.
According to media reports, the doctor is believed to have been killed in a boating accident while on vacation with her family in St. Vincent, an island in the Caribbean.
She is married to Dr. Ray Wiss, an emergency physician at Health Sciences North who served as a medical officer on the front lines in the war in Afghanistan.
Gervais-Wiss does not practise medicine in Sudbury, but puts in shifts as a pediatric intensivist in her native Quebec, according to plastic surgeon Dr. Philip Hendel, who does locums at Health Sciences North.
“When she was in Sudbury, she was the total mama to her kids,” he said.
Hendel said he opened an email from Wiss late Dec. 12 in which Wiss provided few details of the accident, but said his wife is dead.
“Nobody really knows” what happened yet, Hendel said. “In this situation, because of the intensity of the legal things he's got to go through, I would imagine the only people he's told the story to are his parents.”
According to an email statement from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Canadian consular officials in Bridgetown, Barbados are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information and are providing consular assistance to the family as required.
Hendel said the couple's young daughters, aged five and seven years old, likely saw the accident occur. He said Wiss must be overwhelmed, facing tragedy alone in a foreign country.
He said he actually used to be a bit jealous of Wiss because “because whenever I saw him, he was telling me about his latest sailing voyage in the Caribbean. They were doing this quite a lot.”
Because the centre of the couple's lives was their children, “I would imagine that going on these trips was part of what they thought they should do for their children,” Hendel said.
Health Sciences North issued a statement about Gervais-Wiss' death.
“The HSN family is deeply saddened by the loss of Dr. Claude Gervais-Wiss. We want to extend our sincerest condolences to her husband and our colleague Dr. Ray Wiss, and their two daughters. Our thoughts are with them during this difficult time.”