The SCAF and FOCUS honor Elizabeth A. Martinez, whose passing represents a tremendous loss to our academic community, to patient safety efforts, and to the patients to whom she dedicated her life. She was a guiding light in our research, and a great friend to us all. She will be greatly missed.
Elizabeth A. Martinez, MD, an anesthesiologist and critical care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, passed away on Thursday, September 19 after a sixteen-month battle with a rare and aggressive cancer. She was 47 years old.
Dr. Martinez was born and raised in Miami, Florida, where she attended grade school at Immaculate Conception and graduated from Monsignor Pace High School. She earned her undergraduate degree at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA and her MD and MPH degrees at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. She spent 20 years at Johns Hopkins, after medical school completing her internship in surgery, residency in anesthesiology, fellowships in cardiac anesthesia and critical care, and later becoming Assistant and then Associate Professor of Anesthesiology. During her residency she met her husband, Dr. Brett Simon, also an anesthesiologist; they married in 2001 and moved to Boston in 2009.
Throughout her career, Dr. Martinez dedicated both her clinical practice and her research to improving the quality and safety of care provided to surgical patients. Her first major initiative built collaborative multidisciplinary teams to reduce surgical site infections at Johns Hopkins. Her research, funded by the Society for Critical Care Medicine, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Commonwealth Fund, focused on improving outcomes for patients through scientifically approaching the delivery of health care by teams of providers. She worked to determine what aspects of the perioperative care of cardiac surgical patients, particularly care in the intensive care unit, led to improved outcomes; to identify and spread best practices of successful cardiac surgery teams; and to find objective measures of quality ICU care. Dr. Martinez co-authored over 50 papers, spoke at numerous national and international conferences, and her co-authored book Avoiding Common ICU Errors (2007) was translated into three languages. Dr. Martinez was equally appreciated for the expert, compassionate care she provided to her patients and for her mentorship of others in health services research.
At Johns Hopkins, Elizabeth’s mentor was Dr. Peter Pronovost, an anesthesiologist and intensive-care specialist whose contributions to patient safety were recognized by Time magazine’s designation as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He said that Elizabeth “was caring and confident, humble and brilliant, and committed to continuously improving the care she provided to patients. She did novel and important research identifying and mitigating risks to patients having cardiac surgery. Her work led to improved safety and reduced infections in hospitals across the country. She had a unique knack for this, able to find the balance between what is scientifically rigorous and what is practical. Without a doubt, her work saved many lives and will continue to save lives.”
At Massachusetts General Hospital, the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine is creating an endowment to be named the Elizabeth Martinez Endowed Chair in Quality and Safety to insure that her work continues. Dr. Jeanine Wiener-Kronish, chief of this department, said that Elizabeth “quickly became a leader in working towards quality and safety in cardiac anesthesia and cardiac surgical critical care. She is nationally and internationally known for her work and was a rising star in this area.”
In addition to continuing her work with patients and the teams that delivered their care, after moving to Boston Dr. Martinez began to work with economists, co-organizing three conferences at the National Bureau of Economic Research on the organization and productivity of health care delivery. These conferences have begun to expand economists’ attention from traditional insurance issues to the economic impact of the quality and safety issues that were Elizabeth’s focus as a physician and researcher. Her co-organizer of these conferences, Professor Robert Gibbons from MIT, said that “Without Elizabeth, we never would have launched this agenda,” adding “she added a new dimension to the way economists analyze healthcare delivery.”
In addition to her beloved husband of 12 years, Brett Simon, Dr. Martinez leaves her parents, Dr. Hubert and Kaye Martinez, of Miami Lakes, Florida, siblings and in-laws Gregory and Mary Knight Martinez of Coppell, Texas, Robert and Yami Martinez of Southwest Ranches, Florida, Margaret and Randy Bast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Patricia and John Hand of Sarasota, Florida, and 10 very special nieces and nephews.
Services will be held in Miami, Florida:
Visitation on Friday, September 27, 2013, 6-9pm, Vista Memorial Gardens & Funeral Home, 14200 NW 57th Avenue, Miami Lakes, FL 33014
Services on Saturday, September 28, 11am at St. Marks Catholic Church, 5601 S. Flamingo Road, Southwest Ranches, FL 33330
In lieu of flowers, the family would suggest donations be made in Elizabeth’s honor to the Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesia Foundation.