Innovator in Treatment of Infectious Diseases, Francisco Marty, MD, Dies at 53

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The Brigham and Women’s hospital community mourns the loss of Francisco Marty, MD, of the Division of Infectious Diseases, who died April 8, 2021, after a tragic accident while hiking in the Dominican Republic. He was 53.

A member of the Brigham community for more than 20 years, Dr. Marty is remembered as a masterful physician, researcher, and mentor who specialized in the treatment of infectious diseases affecting patients with cancer and transplant recipients. Along with Lindsey Baden, MD, he built and led the clinical infectious disease consult service for patients at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In addition to his work at the Brigham, he was Editor-in-Chief of the journal Transplant Infectious Disease.

Francisco Marty, MD

Francisco Marty, MD

“Francisco was foremost an extraordinary doctor—totally committed to caring for his patients. In an era when much of medicine seems overly technical and rushed, he always devoted the time to hear people’s stories, review their records and studies, and confer with other experts,” said Paul Sax, MD, Clinical Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Brigham. “He added to this fundamental skill exceptional achievements in both clinical research and teaching. Many of us eagerly awaited his cogent interpretation of clinical trials, and he himself led many important studies. That he brought junior colleagues and trainees along for their learning made his accomplishments all the more impressive.”

Leadership During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As a scientist, Dr. Marty led numerous multicenter trials to study the safety and efficacy of novel treatments for influenza, cytomegalovirus, invasive fungal infections, and COVID-19. Most recently, he was the principal investigator for two clinical trials that looked at the use of the antiviral medication remdesivir for patients with COVID-19. They were among several studies that led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand its emergency use authorization for remdesivir to treat all hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

“Francisco was an outstanding clinician, a brilliant clinical investigator, and a dedicated teacher and mentor,” said Daniel ­Kuritzkes, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases. “He was the expert on whom we all relied for any question involving fungal infections and could identify nearly all species of yeasts and molds from a wet mount or a histopathology slide.” Dr. Kuritzkes recalled that during the first COVID-19 surge in Massachusetts, Dr. Marty was “personally responsible for enrolling more than 300 participants into remdesivir trials, including many Spanish-speaking Latinx patients who might otherwise have declined to participate in a clinical trial.”

‘A Maestro in the Art and Science of Medicine’

As illustrious as his academic achievements were, Dr. Marty is equally remembered by colleagues for his tireless commitment to his patients, mentorship, creative problem-solving, and unwavering warmth and kindness. Sophia Koo, MD, an attending physician in infectious diseases at the Brigham and Dr. Marty’s mentee, recalled meeting the doctor on her first day as a Brigham intern, when he provided a consult for one of her patients. The patient, who had a severe parasitic infection, could not take the oral medication needed to resolve the infection due to the inflammation in his gut. Dr. Marty devised a novel solution—seeking permission from the FDA to administer a veterinary formulation of the drug intravenously, which had never been done before with that medication. The FDA approved the request, and the patient thrived. The experience inspired Dr. Koo to follow in Dr. Marty’s footsteps and enter the field of transplant infectious diseases.

“Francisco had such a contagious love of medicine and discovery and such deep love and compassion for his patients,” Dr. Koo said. “He was truly a maestro in the art and science of medicine. People all over the world turned to him for advice for their most challenging diagnostic and therapeutic dilemmas, and he always came through with a thoughtful and well-informed opinion.”

Jose Orejas, MD, a research fellow in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, previously served as a research fellow in infectious diseases and participated in more than a dozen studies with Dr. Marty over his 3 years with the division. In that time, Dr. Orejas said he came to cherish Dr. Marty as a mentor and continued to seek out opportunities to collaborate on research.

“Francisco transformed the way I was through his guiding example,” Dr. Orejas said. “He taught me precision and compassion. He made his clinical research feel so natural that you couldn’t tell we were developing the medicine of the future. He was an absolute mastermind. Losing my mentor in such an unexpected way hurts so much, and this is a major loss for transplant patients all over the world. I will miss him.”

More Than a Physician

Colleagues also fondly remembered that, as serious as Dr. Marty was about his work, he embraced opportunities to bring joy to others. “He loved puns and taking selfies with all of his many friends in the hospital,” said Sarah Hammond, MD, a former Brigham attending physician in infectious diseases who now practices at Massachusetts General Hospital. “He was the kind of colleague who would track me down if he knew I was having a really difficult day on the inpatient service and bring me a snack or offer to help.”

A man of many talents, Dr. Marty was also known as a gifted photographer—traveling around the world to capture the beauty of architecture, natural landscapes, and—a favorite of his—scenic views of New England’s lighthouses. In a 2018 interview with Brigham Bulletin, Dr. Marty explained that he was first drawn to photography while attending medical school in his home country of Venezuela.

“In addition to helping me find a meaningful work-life balance, art is a very good way to communicate with colleagues, trainees, and patients,” he said at the time. “When my patients find out I do photography, it becomes a way to talk about something that’s different from their illness—it provides a common ground, solace, and hope for so many of them.”

Dr. Marty earned his medical degree from José María Vargas School of Medicine, Universidad Central de Venezuela, and completed his residency at the Jacobi Medical Center of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, where he served as Chief Resident. He completed his infectious diseases fellowship at the Brigham.