Ignazio R. Marino was a teenager during some big firsts in human history, like when the first man walked on the moon. But for him, the first human liver transplant by Dr. Thomas Starzl in 1963 had the most impact on his future—as Marino would perform the first liver transplant in Sicily in 1999.
“What a time to be young,” Marino the mayor of Rome, Italy, said during a lecture in the Temple Performing Arts Center this past Thursday.
Mayor Marino, a world-renowned organ transplant surgeon who practiced for four years in Philadelphia, was the first speaker for Temple’s fall Provost Lecture Series. Titled, “Transplantation: From Surgery to Reviving the Eternal City,” his lecture was about his career in medicine and how it eventually led to his involvement in politics.
In terms of Pope Francis’ recent visit to Philadelphia, Marino talked about the similarities of the pilgrimage many made to Rome during the Pope’s visit last year. He said they had to arrange security for thousands of people who slept on the streets to be as close to the Pope as possible.
Marino told The Temple News that he chose to speak here because he “loves Temple,” and has several friends who are teach at the university. Some of his daughter’s friends attend Temple as well.
After witnessing Starzl’s work, Marino also wanted to become a liver transplant surgeon and was lucky enough to study under him in Pittsburgh, where he was very excited to be regardless of how long the work days were. In 1991, Marino and his team performed more than 500 liver transplants and even transplanted the first baboon liver into a human, although that patient later died from hepatitis B.
Marino emphasized the importance of human connection with his patients, bringing up a case from 2000 about a woman named Dora, who he treated when she was a girl, and visited him recently in Italy.
“What I love the most and still love today is the relationship with the patient,” Marino said.
In 2002, he left his position as professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh to become professor of surgery at Thomas Jefferson University, where he later became director of the division of transplantation. Although he did not think he would ever return to Italy, he left Philadelphia in 2006 and was elected into office in the Italian senate.
After he was elected the chairman of the healthcare committee, he did not want to be involved in politics any longer. But in 2013 the election for the Mayoral position of Rome was coming up, and while his family did not approve of the idea, Marino said he ran to oppose someone from the extreme right wing with xenophobic ideals.
Deciding to run for office very late, Marino had a short, low-cost campaign based largely on social media. After two-and-a-half months, he won with 64 percent of the vote. In 2014, he recognized same-sex unions, despite the ban on same-sex marriages in Italy and also pushed other cities in Italy to move toward similar laws.
Addressing Temple students, Marino encouraged them to take advantage of their time and learn the most they could in their time here.
“You should use to the best possible way your skills,” Marino said. “I did not have a particular talent, but I had perseverance and I wanted to do as much as I could to achieve my goals. I also think that it is very important to study as much as you can;.No revolution will happen without knowledge or hard work, but at the same time I think you should be a little bit rebellious—if somebody tells you that something cannot be done, that is a good time to think, ‘Maybe I could do that.’”
“Impossible is not a scientific word.”
Ayah Alkhars can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org