Dr. Francisco M. Marty was doing one of his favorite things, photographing a natural wonder, while on a long-anticipated break from his work as an infectious disease specialist, when he fell to his death in the Dominican Republic last week.
Marty, 53, a doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana Farber Cancer Center, was capturing images of a roughly 275-foot waterfall when he died April 8, colleagues said. The tragic fall came during the first hike of a trip he’d begun just a day earlier.
“We lost a family member as well as a colleague,” said Ilene Galinsky, a nurse practitioner in the leukemia unit at Dana Farber who worked with Marty for two decades, on Monday. “The only thing, I think, that gets any of us through it is to know that he died doing something that he loved. Taking photographs was his second love, and he was an amazing photographer.”
Marty posted almost 400 photos to his Instagram account, pacho.shots, including many images of sunsets, flowers, architecture, and cityscapes, alongside candid photos of himself smiling with colleagues and receiving his COVID-19 vaccination.
His brother, Rafael Marty, confirmed Dr. Marty’s death in a Twitter post April 8, writing in Spanish that Dr. Marty died in “an accident” in Santo Domingo. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
Listin Diario, a Dominican newspaper, reported Friday that Marty had fallen while taking a photograph of Salto Aguas Blancas, a waterfall in La Vega that attracts many visitors.
Brigham and Women’s said Marty was “a gifted and devoted physician-scientist, specializing in the treatment of infectious diseases affecting transplant and cancer patients.”
“Throughout the pandemic, he also was a near-constant presence on our Special Pathogens Units, caring for vulnerable patients with compassion, warmth, and meticulous attention to detail,” the hospital said in a statement.
Originally from Venezuela, Marty made headlines in Boston last May through his work at the helm of a clinical trial for the antiviral drug remdesivir.
Marty’s remdesivir studies helped encourage the US Food and Drug Administration to expand remdesivir’s emergency use authorization to include the treatment of all hospitalized coronavirus patients, according to Brigham and Women’s.
At Dana Farber, Marty was considered a “doctor’s doctor” with “remarkable clinical dedication, skill, and insight as a practitioner, mentor, and colleague,” according to a statement from Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, Dana Farber’s president.
Dr. Robert J. Soiffer, chief of Dana Farber’s Division of Hematologic Malignancies, said in an interview Monday that he worked with Marty for more than 20 years and watched him grow as a leader.
Soiffer said that Marty’s colleagues, when facing “a difficult problem, we would say, ‘Well, what does Francisco think? What would Francisco do?’ That would be our first question to make sure it was the right thing to do.”
Marty cared deeply for coworkers, patients, and anyone else who came to him for help, Galinsky said.
“You could trust him, call him, ask him any question at any time about any patient, or even if you had a personal question to ask … he was always, always available,” she said.
A funeral Mass for Marty was held in Santo Domingo on Sunday and streamed online. During the service, Marty’s sister spoke about her brother’s decisions to devote his life to others, to follow God faithfully, to pursue his love of art, and to smile each day, Soiffer said.
“It’s the choice to smile every day that really stuck with me, because he had a big smile on his face most of the time,” Soiffer said. “Everyone appreciated that.”
Dr. Fatima Al Dhaheri, an infectious disease fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital, said in a statement posted to Twitter that Marty was “more than a Mentor to me,” recounting a meal he once shared with her and her father, who she said referred to the doctor as “El-Professor.”
“At the conclusion of dinner my father said, ‘Tell El-Professor that I don’t know him before this, but I feel like I have known him for a long time. Tell him that I know he has a good soul, and that I am impressed with his humility. And it’s an honor to sit with him and learn from someone so knowledgeable,’ ” Al Dhaheri wrote. “To which Francisco replied (and asked me to translate) that he was the student during the entire dinner, learning from him about greater lessons than what is found in Academia. Lessons in life.”
Galinsky said she spoke recently with the mother of a cancer patient who had died last fall. The woman said her son had always appreciated the time Marty spent at his bedside, talking and laughing through the trials of his illness.
The mother, who shared Marty’s deep faith, was devastated to learn of his death but offered Galinsky a few words of comfort.
“She said the two of them are up there now, talking things out.”