UHealth Trauma Surgeon Leads Rio’s Emergency Health Services During the Games

UHealth in Rio - Part 3

The numbers are staggering – 36 competition and 20 training venues, six hotels, five media villages, one hospital, 306 events, 10,903 athletes, 3,200 referees and assistants, 45,000 volunteers, 25,100 accredited media, 7,000 National Olympic Committee delegates, 5,000 clinicians, 1,000 doctors…and one man responsible for it all.

Antonio Marttos, M.D., a trauma surgeon at UHealth, is the manager of emergency medical services and MCI response for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He has been given the monumental task of ensuring
that everyone attending the Olympics receives the highest level of medical care.

As he put it, “Whether as an athlete, coach, spectator, staff, volunteer or member of the media, with the support of our medical volunteers, as soon as you step onto Olympic grounds, I’m responsible for your well-being.”

Marttos’ experience with the International Olympic Committee is longstanding. He has volunteered at previous games, and because he is an expert in trauma and a native of Brazil, Marttos was tapped by Dr. João Grangiero, chief medical officer for Rio 2016, to play this crucial role. But the appointment was not recent, and the preparations leading up to the games did not happen overnight.

For the past few years, Marttos has been spending one weekend a month in Rio. He has been an active participant in the planning and implementation of the Olympics, including advising construction and acquisition of medical infrastructure and technology.

“Our mission was always to provide anyone at the games with an international standard of care that is second to none,” Marttos said. “Much time, effort and money went into ensuring that not only athletes, but anyone enjoying Olympic festivities could receive care at an unparalleled level.”

To make that goal a reality, Marttos also had to begin training regional physicians and clinicians. “Unfortunately, most doctors in Brazil are not expert in emergency services and trauma,” he said. “While they are excellent at what they do, physicians in Brazil have never had the opportunity to learn how level 1 trauma is handled. In fact, that is one of the reasons I left Brazil and decided to practice medicine at UHealth and Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson. I wanted to learn how trauma cases were cared for by the best.”

In addition to working with attending physicians in Rio, Marttos worked with UHealth and Jackson Health System to bring the physicians to Miami for training.

“While simulations are an excellent tool for learning and planning – in fact, all throughout the lead-up to the games we were continually drilling various crisis scenarios – it is imperative for doctors educating themselves in trauma to be on the scene of an emergency,” said Marttos. “By spending time at UHealth and Jackson, the visiting clinicians from Brazil got to see firsthand the severity of cases, the necessity of timely care and the best treatment protocols. They never could have become as proficient in this specialty without the time they spent in Miami.”

Building out infrastructure and training local health care providers were only part of the preparations for Rio. Marttos also had to anticipate any type of injury that could occur, whether during competition by an athlete or in the stands to a spectator. He needed strategies that would direct medical volunteers how each injury would be treated and at which Olympic-affiliated hospital.

Marttos spent long hours working with numerous outside organizations to help create an injury guide that has been provided to all volunteer medical staff. Depending on which sport the volunteer is working, he or she will know the most common injuries to expect, best protocols for stabilization of the injury and where the patient should be sent for further treatment if needed.

“My job is to make everyone else’s job as simple as possible so that treatment protocols are easily understood and as a result quickly implemented,” Marttos said.

“I know what needs to be done for trauma patients, but I can’t be everywhere at once. Because of the preparation that has gone into health services for the games, I have full confidence that the medical volunteers from UHealth and around the globe are fully prepared. I have no qualms in delegating to these volunteers, because they are some of the best physicians in the world and they have received excellent training to care for our athletes and guests.”

While his satisfaction in his Olympic work is telling, Marttos’ pride in his UHealth colleagues is obvious. “I am joined in Rio by more than 20 UHealth clinicians. They are from various disciplines and working in numerous sports, including some of the Olympics’ most prominent events, like swimming, gymnastics and track and field.

“We are definitely getting noticed. We are one of only two health systems from the U.S. that sent a medical team to Rio. The games have barely begun, and already our doctors have been in the thick of it, quickly rising to the top and putting an international spotlight on UHealth’s level of expertise. It’s fantastic to watch,” he said.

While the work leading up to the games the past two years has been immense, Marttos is ready to welcome everyone to the Olympics and get the festivities underway. “It’s been an exhausting, yet exhilarating, period of planning,” Marttos said. “Now, it is time for us to celebrate. This is the Olympics, the biggest event in sports. As the athletes arrive and the Opening Ceremonies kick off the games, it is time for us to do our jobs, but also revel in the moment.”

Perhaps of even greater significance to Marttos, though, is the legacy the Olympics will leave behind for his
fellow Brazilians. It has been well documented that the medical care available to most residents in Brazil is not at a standard comparable to what would be found in the U.S. or other nations. However, Marttos hopes that tide is turning because of all the strides that were made in preparing for the games.

“Every piece of technology that was bought, every hospital that was built, every doctor that was trained, all of that becomes the new standard for Brazilian medicine,” Marttos said. “My people will have better access to a higher level of care, and they will come to expect that standard in other parts of Brazil. I know that the hard work put in by myself and countless others is the turning point for Brazil’s health care system and the millions of citizens who count on it. The Olympics is the start of something better for Brazilian health.”

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