Leading with compassion
Second-year medical student Silvio Martinez builds relationships to create change
August 29, 2019—The entry way overflowed with patients lining up to the front door. Once a patient was admitted, delays were inevitable. Sometimes, practitioners would run out of gauze during emergency procedures. Other times, no running water meant they had to make a quick trip to the market next door to wash their hands. Only one ultrasound system forced nurses to wait to treat patients.
Silvio Martinez, a volunteer at Centro de Salud Santa Rosa, a health care center for the underserved in Cusco, Peru, immediately recognized the staff and patients of this facility needed help.
“It was chaotic. There was a lot of waiting, which made it stressful for staff and patients,” recalls Martinez, who volunteered here for six weeks in the summer of 2016. “Some patients spoke the indigenous language Quechua, meaning they likely came from a mountainous area outside the city by bus. I could see how tired they were from their journey but how eager they were to receive health care.”
After Martinez returned to the United States, he decided to launch a fundraising campaign to ensure Centro de Salud Santa Rosa, which receives less than $1,000 annually to pay for supplies, had new equipment and sufficient supplies. Martinez’s supporters on GoFundMe helped him raise $1,500, which he used to buy a stethoscope, two blood pressure monitors, medical scissors, ultrasound gel, medical tape and toys for the pediatric unit, among other items.
Martinez hopped on a plane to Cusco, one full suitcase in each hand, to personally deliver the goods to Centro de Salud Santa Rosa. He was greeted with smiles and hugs.
“The staff was genuinely grateful that I cared enough to think about them and what they needed,” Martinez says. “In addition to providing them with supplies, my goal for this fundraiser was to let others know about this issue that exists in other countries. There’s a need to support the poor and to help create sanitary medical centers in many places in the world.”
Martinez is focused on helping those who need it most, as he himself receives support to follow his aspirations from the Charlotte M. Liberty Scholarship and Academic Support Fund. Martinez, who is from Venezuela, says the scholarship assures him that at UF, there is a community of people who believe in him.
“Receiving this scholarship showed me the welcoming family we have at UF. Gators have each other’s backs. As a minority especially, receiving this scholarship made me feel welcome and thankful for the community that supports me,” he says.
A second-year medical student at the UF College of Medicine, Martinez serves as the president of the UF chapter of Primary Care Progress, a national organization that aims to improve health care through utilizing interprofessional teamwork and relational leadership, which focuses on building relationships among staff and with patients.
“I’ve found the most effective teams I’ve been on, like the UF Health Streetlight program, have been cohesive families. We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We call on each other for support,” Martinez says. “The problem in modern health care is we often don’t spend a lot of time getting to know the patient or the providers and staff we work with. Primary Care Progress is about building authentic relationships to deliver true patient-centered care.”
Martinez is inspired by the work of humanitarian and global health physician Dr. Paul Farmer, who fought against tuberculosis in Haiti and co-founded Partners in Health. Like Farmer, Martinez plans to practice medicine in an environment lacking proper health care infrastructure and patient access. In Martinez’s native Venezuela, political dissent fuels and is fueled by hyperinflation, power cuts and shortages of medicine and food. Martinez hopes to create a positive impact in his home after graduating from the UF College of Medicine.
“Dr. Farmer delivered care in innovative, cost-effective ways. That was so inspiring,” he says. “I want to go back home one day when I’m trained to help rebuild their health care system. I want to create a Partners in Health chapter in Venezuela.”