Photo: Carlos E. Martinez, M.D
Dr. Carlos Martinez is a young surgeon specializing in correcting eyesight problems with laser surgery, and who has made several trips to Central America to donate his time, skill and technology to the poorest communities.
Exiled from Cuba with his family, Martinez lived as a child in a poor Madrid neighborhood where he dreamed of being either a priest or a doctor.
Less than 40 years later he has become one of the most respected eye surgeons in Southern California, has his own clinic and employs the most advanced laser equipment in the country.
His father, who always wanted the best for his family, decided that Puerto Rico offered better opportunities than Spain, so the Martinez family moved there.
“I finished my high school education in Puerto Rico, and thanks to my mom having established a preschool, I could pay my way through Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.”
“When I entered Tulane I could hardly speak English and the essay I wrote explaining why I wanted to go to college was full of grammatical errors, not only that but my classmates really laughed at the way I spoke,” he recalls.
Nonetheless, his good grades not only got him into university but allowed him to graduate with a degree in chemistry. Later he won a scholarship to complete his master’s in chemical physics.
“From the time I was a kid I wanted to be one of two things in life - either a priest or a doctor,” he said. “I eventually fell in love and knew I wasn’t going to be a priest, so that was when I knew that medicine was what I wanted to do.”
With that goal in mind and thanks to the hardworking example of his parents and his mother’s insistence, the young graduate entered medical school.
“It wasn’t easy at all and in those days there was a lot of racism in New Orleans.” Nonetheless, the difficult times that for others might by an excuse to drop out “were for me an incentive to show people they were wrong,” he said.
During his medical internship and in later years he did laser research and got the chance to work “with the person who used a laser for the first time on human beings.”
“The research I did enabled the laser to be used to correct imperfections of the eye different from the usual ones of astigmatism, hypermetropy and myopia, and meant the laser could be applied with fewer side effects.”
He moved to California and opened his practice.
His clinic, which was recently granted approval to implant a telescope inside the eye that helps patients with cataracts or with a macula spot on the cornea, possesses two of the most modern surgical laser devices in the country.
His faith in God and his wish to serve others has led him to provide free operations for the needy in Central America.
In 2011, through the organization See Vision, he spent a week operating on patients with cataracts in an extremely poor region of Honduras, where he performed 46 surgeries.
The team, made up of three surgeons who paid for their own air tickets and daily expenses as well as bringing their own equipment and medical supplies from the United States, went back in January 2012 to perform 96 free surgeries.
The group, in which Martinez is the only one who speaks Spanish and serves as an interpreter for the patients, hopes to be able to perform close to 150 surgeries in January 2013, “during the week of the year when the work is hardest but when I also receive the affection and appreciation of those wonderful patients.”