Colonel Joseph J. Contiguglia, MD

January 8, 1948October 1, 2020

Colonel Joseph Justin “The Count” Contiguglia, MD, MPH&TM, MBA, a 29-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and dedicated professor at Tulane died in New Orleans on October 1, 2020 following a long illness. He was 72 years old.

In recent years, Contiguglia was best known for his animated lectures at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. An alumni of 1981, he returned after more than thirty years to teach disaster management and public health to undergraduate, Master’s and PhD students.

Originally from Little Neck, New York, Contiguglia joined the USAF in 1977 after obtaining his medical degree at the University of Siena in Italy and completing his residency at New York University. Contiguglia was a skilled pilot in his off-time, and a note in the margins of a 1981 flight log lists a new co-pilot – fellow flight enthusiast, doctor, and future wife Sylvie Contiguglia. They met while obtaining their Master’s in Public Health at Tulane University and would go on to have three children. The family of five criss-crossed the globe crammed in cars and airplanes with their menagerie of beloved dogs, cats, gerbils and hamsters, eventually settling in Ocean Springs, Mississippi 1999. There, Contiguglia found his paradise on the bayou, and spent time sailing his boat on the Gulf and bird watching in his back yard.

Contiguglia’s distinguished career in the USAF began with his commissioning in 1977 and entrance into active duty in 1978. His career started out with an assignment to the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, Kadena, Okinawa where he was forward deployed with special operations forces as part of the well-known Iran hostage rescue mission. Over several decades, he would go on to serve in leading positions for military medical operations all over the world, including serving as the Flight Surgeon to U.S. forces for Operation Elf One in Saudi Arabia, and a two-year stint as Chief of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health for the Royal Australian Air Force in 1985, where he organized the largest joint combined aeromedical evacuation exercise held in the South Pacific since the end of the Vietnam War.

Alongside his roles at various military medical facilities, he would deploy to head operations overseas and another tour in Saudi Arabia in 1993 for Operation Desert Storm/ Southern Watch. In 1994 he travelled to the Republic of Panama for Operation Safe Haven, where he was the commander of medical facilities set up to care for 13,500 Cuban migrants and military cadre.

Starting in 1996, he served as the Chief of Medical Operations and then the Chief of Professional Services, Office of the Command surgeon for US Air Force Europe, he worked on several refugee and humanitarian operations. As 3rd Air Force Surgeon he was responsible for planning and implementation of humanitarian operations in Sub-Saharan Africa, and developed USAFE doctrine for refugee operations in Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo. Then, as Deputy Command Surgeon for Operation Shining Hope, he provided refugee support in the Southern Balkans, and headed the NATO preparation team that established fighter operations in Bandirma, Turkey, during the Balkan War.

From 1999 until his retirement from the military, Contiguglia served as Director of Operational Medicine and Chairman of the Department of Military Medicine at Keesler Medical Center in Mississippi. He was chairman of the Keesler Medical Antiterrorism Advisory Council and a member of the executive committee of the Medical Center. He was also a member of the Mississippi State Department of Health Hospital Bioterrorism & Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committee, and served as a consultant on Bioterrorism and Military Medicine to the Mississippi State Department.

Contiguglia’s military decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with five oak leaf clusters, the Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal with two service stars, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Service Medal, Korean Defense Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal three service stars.

Upon retiring from the USAF in 2007, Contiguglia became Professor of Clinical Environmental Health Sciences, Department of Global Environmental Health Sciences at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and continued to serve as a consultant to the State of Mississippi, helping to strengthen disaster response programs following Hurricane Katrina.

He is survived by his sister Katherine Stone; his wife Sylvie; three children, Dorothy Contiguglia-Akcan; Joseph Contiguglia and Catherine Contiguglia; and three grandchildren, Zeynep Akcan; Devrim Akcan; and Henry Contiguglia. His family would like to extend their warm thanks to the Tulane Cancer Center, especially Dr. Nakhle Saba, for their help and support during this difficult and long disease.

A Private Funeral Mass will be held at Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home, New Orleans, Louisiana with Interment in Mt. St. Mary Cemetery in Flushing, New York.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that money be donated to the following charities supported by Contiguglia throughout his life: Boys Town, St. Joseph Indian School, Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.



No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
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Susan Prisco - Rathje

October 24, 2020

I was a classmate of Joseph's at (SAS) St. Anastasia School in Douglaston, NY. We were very good childhood friends during those years and have shared many wonderful memories of our childhood days together. After reuniting on FB after 55 years, one memory we laughed a lot about was how we marched into school from the playground every morning no matter what the weather was when the nuns played "Stars and Stripes Forever " on the loud speaker. After connecting with Joseph after all these years his great love of family and country were very evident. It is no surprise to us who knew him in early childhood that he would be very accomplished in all his endeavor including his life personally with the family he loved deeply, the military life he held dear to his heart, his many achievements nationally as well as his achievements internationally. God Bless him and his family as he continues flight on this part of his life's journey. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his beautiful family always.

Kenneth Dozier

October 10, 2020

Carol and I send our heart felt sympathy. Joe was a complex man . He had a wonderful sense of humor and could even get silly with the rest of the RAMS when called for . But , he was a serious man. A deep thinker . He was so well read . He amazed me with hs breath of knowledge. He was also a very compassionate man. At times he and I would have serious talks . I always valued his options and encouragement. He was a leader. He truly is one of the most memorable men I’ve ever known . I was blessed to have known him and called him friend . Kenneth C Dozier MD , MPH , Col USAF ret.

James Ekwensi

October 10, 2020

I am saddened by the passing of this great man - COLONEL JOSEPH JUSTIN CONTIGUGLIA, MD. He was my teacher and mentor. I was admitted to study Tropical Medicine at Tulane University School of Tropical in fall 2007. Upon arrival from Nigeria, I quickly decided to switch to another program. While contemplating which major to pursue, a chance encounter with Dr. Contiguglia convinced me to change my major to the MPH in Disaster Management program. He was extremely kind to me. He was the first person that made me feel welcomed to the United States. He told me about his stay in West Africa. He remembered the names of the streets, even the food and restaurants. He made me feel at home at Tulane. I always looked forward to his classes. He was and exceptional teacher! He taught me all I know in disaster management. I have never forgotten his mantra on emergency communication “know, do, go”. We have remained in touch since my graduation. He always wrote strong recommendation letters for me. I am most grateful that I currently apply what he taught me in my current job as a COVID19 infection Preventionist. He will be greatly missed. My heart goes out to his family and all the people across the world like me, that his rich live touched and graciously blessed. My God almighty give his immediate family the fortitude to bear this loss. May his gentle Soul rest in peace. His legacy lives on!

Peter Ingoglia

October 8, 2020

I was just informed today by another Little Neck guy of Joe’s passing. I’d like to express my sincerest condolences for your loss.
We attended St. Anastasia’s grammar school together. Joe was a very bright and used it at times for mischief. Once he made up a batch of a very powerful blue dye and told us how he turned someone’s swimming pool dark blue.
We didn’t keep in touch after high school but his career and service to our country is exemplary.
May he Rest In Peace.

Judyth Gulden

October 7, 2020

I wish the family my deepest sympathies for your loss. Sending healing prayers to all of you. He was my thesis advisor and mentor and I thought of him often. He will be greatly missed.

Judyth Gulden

Martha Prieto-Moreno

October 7, 2020

So very sorry for your loss. I knew Col Contiguglia from Keesler Air Force Base, I am also from NY and we would talk about NY but also about so many things. I was always so impressed with his knowledge of so many things. He was so easy to speak to, even though I did not have his education I was eager to learn and he was eager to teach us. Thank you for sharing him with us. Prayers for the whole family.

Robert Benazzi

October 7, 2020

I was a classmate of Joe's at Holy Cross H.S. and will always remember his heated debates with Bro. Francis Ellis regarding philosophy even though it was a Geometry class. Joe would never back down and led to many funny conflicts!!

Sharon A. Galman (Funeral Director)

October 7, 2020

The entire staff at Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home wishes to express our sincere condolences.


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