Fetal Surgery Pioneer Martinez Commends BJU

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Krystal Allweil: Hi, everyone. Welcome to BJUtoday. I am here with Dr. Marcelo Martinez-Ferro who is on the School of Health Professions advisory board. Dr. Ferro, you’re part of pioneering fetal surgery in your country, in Argentina. Can you tell us a little bit about that in a nutshell?

Dr. Marcelo Martinez-Ferro: Yes, when I was a very young doctor and a pediatric surgeon, you know, you treat conditions on patients that will be born and you already—it’s too late to fix them, so most of the times they will die. And I was a young surgeon even, I wasn’t saved because I was saved years later, I had a burden in my heart to help those kids. And there was a doctor here in the United States called Michael Harrison who works at the UCSF California in San Francisco. He’s the father of fetal surgery. So when I was very young I trained with him, and when I went back home I worked and worked. The country was not ready, the hospitals were not ready, but I prepared myself. And waiting. So to make a long story short, in the year 2001, Dr. Harrison came to Buenos Aires. And we perform the first fetal surgery in all the world outside of the—outside of the United States. It was a myelomeningocele case, and this kid has—we operated him, like. We had to open the womb, take the—take the kid, fix it, put it back, and he was born twice. So this kid is now 17 years old, and he walks. And that was something that was very, very, very, very good. It was a big shock in the country. The country was not ready, actually. We couldn’t start the program because Dr. Harrison left. But the fetal surgery program started later because it was something very, very innovative at that time.

Allweil: Wow, that’s amazing. It’s really, truly groundbreaking for Argentina.

Martinez: Well, you know, um. I love to do that kind of things. But what I enjoy most is to see the fetus as a patient. That was Dr. Harrison’s vision. And we don’t realize that because the womb is there and the mother is there. I mean, I was working with obstetricians and neonatologists and different specialists that each one will take care of one part, like. But nobody will see the baby there as a patient. When I have—when the—today the pregnant mothers come to my consultation, the first thing I ask them is, “What is the name of the baby?” And they were like, “Oh.” Yeah, so I start to talk about the patient with the name because he is there. The only thing is he cannot talk to us or cry. I mean he may be crying, but you cannot listen to him.

Allweil: Interesting.

Martinez: So fetal surgery is about, you know, understanding the fetus as a patient. And I loved that concept.

Allweil: So how can BJU prepare their School of Health Professions students to do the same type of groundbreaking work, in your professional opinion?

Martinez: Well, first of all, groundbreaking work—that’s the way you say it? I’m sorry, my English is not so good. But you know, we only have to be like Christ. He was the biggest groundbreaker. He just, you know, what He did was incredible. He changed the history of the whole universe. So it’s nice to be part of somebody that will change things. But you can only change things and do good things if the Lord is with you. The bigger the challenge, the more you need the Lord. So I got saved years later. I was—I got saved when I was 42, a couple of years later after that fetal surgery. And that completely changed my vision of my profession because I used to work, I used to say, What can I do better for myself? And now I live thinking, What can I do for Him, for my Lord, my Savior? So imagine a doctor who loves to do break — break ground—How do you say? Break?

Allweil: Groundbreaking.

Martinez: Groundbreaking things. Having the Lord on your side. So what can BJU do? Everything! Because this is probably the better place in the whole world that can prepare a health professional to be like Christ, to be innovative. And even in fetal surgery, imagine—I mean who else will understand that that little baby there when other places people will go for abortion? Who else can teach you better that that baby is a son of God? Someday he may be, you know, one of His children, and he will need the Gospel anyway. So we have to fight for him.
And so, I think that this is—I think that Bob Jones is that place in the whole world. Probably I can say that because I come from another place and I travel all over the world. And so yes, that’s why I love to be here supporting, giving. Being on the advisory board is a huge privilege. And I think that this is a perfect place for that kind of things to happen.

Allweil: Thank you for sharing your heart and your passion for this.

Martinez: Thank you.

Allweil: We enjoyed hearing it.

Martinez: Thank you for inviting me, yes.

Allweil: Thank you for joining us, everyone. We’ll see you next time.


Dr. Marcelo Martinez-Ferro is a member of BJU’s School of Health Professions advisory board. Read about the board’s 2019 spring visit: Advisory Board Meets and Mentors Students.

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