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Danny Martinez (DO ’22) 
May His Light Forever Shine


May 18, 2022

Danny Martinez and fellow students work with simulated patientWarm-hearted, open-minded, brilliant, driven, well-rounded, naturally gifted, athletic, competitive, encouraging, full of joy, hilarious, down to earth, teacher, empathetic, deeply loved, big-hearted, optimistic, kind, a safe space, mentor, comic relief, spontaneous, lively.

These words are how the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine class of 2022 describe their classmate, Danny Martinez, who passed away on February 26, 2021. They tell of a friend who knew how to live life to the fullest and encouraged those around him to be the best version of themselves.

“If he were here, he would be finding a way to cheer us all up,” said one of his fellow class members.

A Memorial Service and Tree Planting Ceremony will take place on the PCOM Georgia campus on May 25 to memorialize Danny who would have received his DO degree with his class on May 26.

Stories of encouragement, humor, a talent for medicine, giving

Danny Martinez poses with classmatesThe love for him is palpable. Danny’s classmates penned their thoughts and gave them to his family in a 38-page booklet to help them understand the impact Danny had in their lives.

“Danny was one of the smartest, funniest and most down to earth people I have ever met. It did not matter who you were, whether it was someone in our class or a random stranger. Danny would have your back,” his classmate wrote.

There were countless stories of encouragement — “Danny was caring and compassionate to everyone and anyone and he took care of his medical school classmates as if we were family, always making us smile and easing our tensions.” “He was the kind of guy who could comfort anyone at their lowest point.” “Always radiating optimism, he encouraged us to do our best daily and take nothing for granted.” “You felt like you had nothing to worry about if Danny was on your team. His presence always gave me such a sense of confidence, making me believe I could get through the toughest situations.”

Stories of his humor — “Danny showed me that medical school can be enjoyable if you have the right people with you.” “His personality filled the room. He was the spark at every get-together and everybody could feel his absence when he wasn’t there.” “He was the comic relief that everyone needed. And when music was playing around Danny, dancing was always involved.” “Everything was an adventure with him.” “Hilarious storyteller, spontaneous, lively. I would always want to do whatever hijinks he was talking about.”

Stories of his talent for medicine — “Danny had a great work ethic and an ability to understand complex concepts as opposed to just memorizing.” “He was a teacher to most of our class because of his natural ability to explain things clearly and simply.” “He carried himself with composure through the times of adversity. During Sim battles, when knowledge came to real world experience, Dan was the best on our team, and we had the best team in the entire class.” “As a student, he was truly among the best of us. He was going to make an amazing doctor.” “He always gave his all. He had dreams and aspirations and was a phenomenal doctor in the making.”

Danny Martinez and a classmate present on global health initiativesDanny was also a natural giver. At PCOM Georgia, he served as president of the Neuro-Psych Club and coordinated a spinal tap lab for club members. In addition, he, along with classmates Chris Marsalisi (DO ’22) and Sydney Lipskind (DO ’22), with the support of faculty member Donald Penney, MD, chair of clinical education, started a campus chapter of Global Health Initiative, a not-for-profit organization, to support international health in poor, third world countries. Danny helped to coordinate a fundraiser for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and to buy medical supplies for Guatemala. The team was planning a mission trip that was curtailed by COVID.

Inspired to pursue medicine

Danny Martinez and his father, Salvador Martinez, MDHow did Danny become the classmate he was, the student he was, the man he was?

He grew up in Olney, Maryland, an international area halfway between Baltimore and Washington, DC. His mother, Andrea Martinez, a surgical physician assistant prior to Danny’s birth, said he was extremely close to his older sister, Anaelise, now a trauma nurse, and younger brother, Ben, an engineering and music student at Carnegie Mellon University.

His father, Salvador Martinez, MD, known to his children as Papi, is a Nicaraguan native who attended medical school in Mexico and immigrated to the United States where he practiced emergency medicine for more than 30 years.

According to Anaelise, her parents “basically ran a free clinic out of our house. They helped anyone who needed it and we saw how much of an impact they had in the lives of the patients they cared for.”

Danny grew up in a home where ER stories were commonplace. His parents would often watch and narrate surgery videos at the dining room table.

Dr. Martinez recalls, “I had a patient who came to our house every day for a month for me to change his dressing because he didn’t have the money to see a doctor. The patient was a Cuban refugee who didn’t speak English very well. He had cut all his fingers off his hand with a saw. I laid a towel across the kitchen table and cleaned and dressed his wounds until they were fully healed. This event made a big impact on Danny.“

A passion for service

Danny Martinez hiking in the mountainsHis sister recalled, “When I asked Danny his motivation for going to medical school, he said, ‘I want to be like Papi. I want to help people.‘” She added, “He always had a desire for service. Whenever our family visited Nicaragua, serving others was a huge focus of the trip. Seeing Papi help so many people over the years certainly inspired him to follow a similar path. He wanted to continue helping others, particularly in Central and South America, where medical relief is much needed.

Danny Martinez and scenic mountain viewAfter his first year in medical school, Danny went on a month-long volunteer trip to Columbia and Peru, joining two different medical relief organizations. His younger brother, Ben, said, “I remember him commenting about the poor air quality and how he was not surprised to see so many respiratory cases. But, most of all, you could see the joy in the photos he shared with us. The bright smile and grin across his face and through his scruffy beard as he let a small child use his stethoscope. The sense of wonderment captured on the child’s face as he listened to Danny’s heartbeat really captured a big part of what he was trying to do,” Ben said.

“He always looked up to and emulated his father,” Mrs. Martinez said. “Danny took many of the lessons we taught him and incorporated them into his life. We didn’t realize what an incredible man he had become.”

Danny earned a Certified Nursing Assistant degree in high school, an Emergency Medical Technician degree during his first year in college, and a BS degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Maryland in Baltimore. While studying for the MCAT, he decided to take a year off to get some experience. He worked as a cadaver technician and learned skills that helped him to teach his classmates in his medical school’s Anatomy Lab.

Mrs. Martinez said Danny was invited to interview at several medical schools and chose PCOM Georgia. “He felt the most comfortable there because his classmates were simply an extension of his own multicultural family. In addition, he connected with the focus to work in poor and underserved communities upon graduation.“

A plan to pursue OB/GYN

Tan-Loc Nguyen, MD, an OB/GYN in Warner Robins, Georgia, who was one of Danny’s last preceptors, spent time with Danny during his OB/GYN rotation. “He had a real joy to learn as he followed me on my call nights when he didn’t have to,” he said.

“Best of all he had the drive to learn everything and anything. He was asking me things like investing, traveling, running a practice, keeping a marriage, raising kids, and even cooking. He was everything that I would want in a doctor. This world needed a person and a doctor like him.”

David Quang, DO, Dr. Nguyen’s partner in the Middle Georgia practice, sent the family a hand-written letter after learning of his student’s death. He wrote, “Danny was very compassionate and took excellent care of my patients. He always arrived early and stayed late to give his absolute best. He often came back late in the night to participate in deliveries and C-sections well after his shift had finished.”

He added, “After doing OB for 18 years, sometimes it begins to feel just like a job. Seeing Daniel’s love and enthusiasm for OB/GYN helped to reawaken that spirit in me. Maybe that is why Daniel was sent to me and for that I will forever be grateful.”

Both his parents and his OB/GYN preceptors believe that by the end of this rotation, Danny had decided to pursue a career in OB/GYN, enjoying the in-depth care with patients and the variety of care required, especially surgery.

A ‘crucial part’ of the fabric that is the class of 2022

A red maple tree will be planted in Danny’s memory on the PCOM Georgia campus. A magnolia tree, which reminds the family of Danny’s adopted state of Georgia, is planted on Danny’s grave. “Georgia became a part of him,” his mom said.

The tree is symbolic. Danny was known for his desire to give more than he took. The idea of giving himself back to the earth was the principle behind Danny’s request — “When I die, I want to become a tree,” he had said.

Danny Martinez and his familyTo help further Danny’s mission, the Martinez family, with backing from his friends and loved ones, have established the Daniel Ruben Martinez, OMS-III, Endowed Memorial Fund to support the PCOM Georgia Anatomy Lab. “He helped so many people as a student and a TA. There’s no more fitting choice to support in his honor and his memory,” Mrs. Martinez said.

In addition, the family has designed a memorial lapel pin in Danny’s honor to give to his classmates at their commencement ceremony. It includes his initials, PCOM ’22, and accolades around a puzzle piece. According to Mrs. Martinez, Danny loved putting puzzles together — both on a tabletop and in his textbooks.

“Danny always felt medicine was like a puzzle — one needed to learn all the pieces in order to put them together and see the big picture,” she said.

“Danny was truly a wonderful member of our class in that his presence and energy just brightened and livened up our class as a whole. He was without a doubt a crucial part of the fabric that made up the unique tapestry that is our class,” a classmate wrote.

His family will accept a Diploma In- Memoriam from the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program on Danny’s behalf at a Memorial Service and Tree Planting Ceremony on May 25. His father will hood five of Danny’s medical school best friends at the DO class of 2022 commencement ceremony to be held the next day at the Ameris Bank Amphitheatre.

His memory will continue to live on at PCOM Georgia, through the endowment fund, through the red maple, which will grace the campus walking trail, and through the work of his classmates, who have been inspired to shine their light.

On behalf of his family, Danny’s mother requests that the DO class of 2022 “be the multifaceted mirror that reflects and spreads our Daniel’s light of healing and compassion and joy of living to every person you learn from and care for — be they patient, friend or stranger.”

In his last conversation with his brother, Ben said that Danny “reminded me of a point he made during every one of our calls. It was his creed — ‘Don’t live your life with regret. Don’t wish you could have done the things you wanted to. Don’t wish you could have spent more time with someone, and don’t wish you could have called them because you’ll never realize how much they meant to you until it’s too late.’”

These are indeed wise words to live by from an aspiring physician who lived life to the fullest and encouraged those around him to do the same.

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  • About PCOM Georgia

    Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied history. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, medical laboratory science, and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the wider community. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit pcom.edu/georgia or call 678-225-7500.

    For more information, contact:
    Barbara Myers
    Senior Public Relations Manager
    Email: BarbaraMy@pcom.edu
    Office: 678-225-7532 | Cell: 770-309-0613

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