Hard Work Pays Off Dr. Francis Martinez Enjoys the Challenges of Colorectal Surgery

In the Philippines, where Dr. Francis Martinez grew up and attended medical school, three out of every four people cannot afford health care.

“In a third-world country, when you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it,” said Martinez, who volunteered in disaster relief in the Philippines in the early 1990s, during and after medical school, following a series of earthquake and volcano eruptions.

“It was heartbreaking, especially when you see the kids who are very sick, and their parents are helpless. Here, you come to the ER and whatever you need, you get it,” said Martinez, the newest general surgeon at Holyoke Medical Center, who opened his practice at 10 Hospital Dr. on the hospital campus in December.

Martinez is dual-board-certified in General Surgery and Colon and Rectal Surgery. He is also skilled in colon cancer surgery and surgeries for hemorrhoids, anal fistula and fissures, bowel obstructions, and other ano-rectal procedures.

Colorectal cancer, comprising colon and bowel cancers, is the third-most-common form of cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in the Western world. Colorectal cancer causes 655,000 deaths worldwide per year.

Most of the time, diagnosis of localized colon cancer is achieved through colonoscopy, which is the endoscopic examination that employs a small camera on a flexible tube passed through the anus. It may provide a visual diagnosis and grants the opportunity for biopsy or removal of suspected lesions.

Martinez brings an expertise in colonoscopy and endoscopy as well as laparoscopic procedures for gall bladder and hernia surgery — minimally invasive procedures that involve smaller incisions, faster recovery, and shorter hospital stays for patients.

Passion for Surgery

Martinez graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine in 1993 and completed an Internal Medicine internship at Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He later tackled General Surgery residencies at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City, Philippines, and at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. He went on to do a year of colon and rectal surgery residency at St. Vincent Health Center in Erie, Pa.

“I have always wanted to be a surgeon. I liked the challenges of the field. I enjoy doing things that involve great skill with my hands, and I like the practical application of colorectal surgery,” said Martinez, a soft-spoken surgeon who added that he believes in treating each patient as an individual and educating them about their options when faced with important health care decisions.

Martinez grew up in Iloilo City, Philippines, the fourth of five children with two hard-working parents who paid for all five of their children’s college educations.

“We were not wealthy; everybody worked hard. My parents were good providers,” he said of his father, a lawyer; and his mother, a government employee.

Working hard to meet goals is something Martinez takes seriously. He loved the challenge of his surgical residency’s long hours, rigorous workload, and competitive environment. “It was tough. I was one of four who finished in my batch. It was very fulfilling — at last you knew your hard work had paid off.”

For the past three years, Martinez has worked as staff surgeon in the Morton County Health System in Elkhart, Kan. He was excited about moving to Western Mass. and building his practice at Holyoke Medical Center, a hospital he said he chose for its size and reputation.

“There’s still a sense of community in this area, and the doctors I have met are very collegial,” he said. “It’s busy, but you don’t have to go through traffic or the hassles of city life. It’s a very beautiful area. I think it’s a good place to raise a family.”

Martinez and his wife, Lani, a registered nurse, are expecting their first child in March. The two met during his residency in Brooklyn and are looking forward to getting involved in local civic activities, including in the Roman Catholic Church.

“I want to contribute as much as I can to the community both as a regular citizen and as a doctor,” he said. “It’s rewarding to see people feeling much better after being relieved of their pain and illness — you see remarkable change in your patients.”

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