Dr. Elizabeth A. Martinez, a Johns Hopkins-trained anesthesiologist and critical-care physician who worked in the prevention of hospital-acquired infections in surgical patients, died of a rare cancer Sept. 19 at her Boston home. She was 47 and had lived in Canton.
"Elizabeth was the brightest and the smartest. The one you wanted to work with," said Dr. Genie Heitmiller, a Hopkins colleague, professor of anesthesiology and a Reisterstown resident. "She was a role model to many younger women and men. She was committed and passionate."
Born in Miami, she was the daughter of Cuban-born Dr. Hubert Martinez and his wife, Kaye, a nurse.
Family members said that while at Monsignor Pace High School, Dr. Martinez decided to go to medical school. After earning a bachelor's degree from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., she received her medical degree at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a master's degree in public health, also at Hopkins.
Family members said that Dr. Martinez spent 20 years at Hopkins. After she completed medical school and a surgical internship and a residency in anesthesiology, she had fellowships in cardiac anesthesia and critical care. She became an assistant and then an associate professor of anesthesiology.
"She was brilliant. And she was humble," said a Hopkins colleague and friend, Dr. Kimberly Peairs. "She was warm, witty and disarming. She was very much connected to all types of individuals."
During her residency, she met her future husband, Dr. Brett Simon, who is also an anesthesiologist. The couple courted in Canton's restaurants and got to know each other at spots such as Helen's Garden and Nacho Mama's.
"Elizabeth dedicated both her clinical practice and her research to improving the quality and safety of care provided to surgical patients," her husband said. He added that she worked to set up "collaborative multidisciplinary teams" to reduce surgical-site infections throughout the hospital.
As part of her campaign, her likeness appeared on an anti-germ poster that was placed through medical institutions. The poster stressed washing hands and the necessity of taking other steps to prevent infections.
Her husband said she also studied surgical patients' preoperative care and focused on the treatment of patients in the intensive-care unit, trying to identify what procedures led to improvements. She also tried to spot the best practices of successful cardiac surgery teams.
Dr. Martinez was the author of more than 50 papers and spoke at medical conferences. She was the co-author of the 2007 book, "Avoiding Common ICU Errors," which was translated into three languages.
Colleagues also recalled Dr. Martinez for the care she gave her patients and her willingness to mentor other health professionals.
At Hopkins, her 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.
"Elizabeth was caring and confident, humble and brilliant, and committed to continuously improving the care she provided to patients," said Dr. Pronovost. "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 and was 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."
She moved to Boston in 2009 and joined the department of anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"Elizabeth quickly became a leader in working toward 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," said Dr. Jeanine Wiener-Kronish, chief of her department.
She later worked with health care economists and was a co-organizer of three conferences at the National Bureau of Economic Research. These events focused on the organization and productivity of health care delivery.
Her department at Massachusetts General has announced that it will establish the Elizabeth Martinez Endowed Chair in Quality and Safety to ensure "that her work continues."
A Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church, 5601 S. Flamingo Road, Southwest Ranches, Fla.
In addition to her husband of 12 years, survivors include her parents, Dr. Hubert and Kaye Martinez of Miami Lakes, Fla.; two brothers, Gregory Martinez of Coppell, Texas, and Robert Martinez of Southwest Ranches, Fla.; and two sisters, Margaret Bast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Patricia Hand of Sarasota, Fla.