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How the Quest for Fair and Equal Medical Treatment Led Mauro Ferrari to Vatican City

Dr. Mauro Ferrari was inducted into the Pontifical Academy for Life in Vatican City | University of St. Thomas - Houston, Texas

October 5-7, 2017, marked a transformative event in the life of Mauro Ferrari, Ph.D. A nanoscience pioneer and president and CEO at Houston Methodist Research Institute (HMRI), Ferrari was chosen, along with 88 other world experts, representing 30 countries, to participate at the General Assembly for Members of the Pontifical Academy for Life in Vatican City.

During a ceremony led by Pope Francis, Ferrari and the other invited participants, ranging from bioethicists to bishops, took part in the induction ceremony at the assembly to become members of the academy. Moving forward, they will work together as they serve a five-year term to solve the world’s most pressing societal and ethical issues.

Being invited to hold membership in the academy is the honor of a lifetime. Ferrari, who also holds an honorary doctorate from UST, was admittedly surprised at first to receive the invitation in August. As the founder of biomedical nano/micro-technology, he initially thought his invitation was a mistake. “I don’t have a footprint as a scholar in bioethics,” he said. “Yet when I showed up and knew it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity, it was quite an experience. People who populate the academy are of the highest distinction.”

Another significant aspect for Ferrari was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with respectable experts from multiple fields and religious backgrounds. In 2016, Pope Francis issued new statutes for the pontifical academy that broadened research on life issues and included members from all religious and non-religious sects. “I think it’s part of human nature to be part of something bigger than we are,” he said of the experience.

Ethics in Medicine – What It Means to Ferrari to Serve with Integrity  

Dr. Ferrari may have been surprised at his inclusion in the academy, but there is no question as to his contribution to ethics, which is at the heart of the mission of the Vatican City organization. Ethics have always been the backbone of his work. He stated, “Ethics is what drives us – it’s the driving force in everything we do.”

Life expectancy rates should not be dependent on zip codes.

One of the chief ethical concerns he focuses on in his cancer treatment research at HMRI is the social conflict that accompanies making huge strides in micro-technology for medical treatments. This conflict was also one of the notions of mission that the pope discussed at the assembly.

As technology advances, medical treatments are expensive, making it difficult for poorly developed countries or impoverished groups of patients to afford them. As he continues to work on this problem, Ferrari sees strengthening the pathways and communication between lab research and clinic care as a solution. To this, he said, “The boundary between clinical care and advancement is tenuous. Finding a solution will be truly transformational and is the responsibility of those in the medical field. Life expectancy rates should not be dependent on zip codes.”

Messages from the Vatican’s Ceremony Reflect Catholic Values at UST

Even before receiving his honorary doctorate award from UST in May 2017, Dr. Ferrari was active on the UST campus. A regular attender of mass at the Chapel of St. Basil, he also has been instrumental in creating the Master in Clinical Translation Management program, housed in the Cameron School of Business.

As an extension of his work in creating a collaborative bridge between lab and clinic settings, this master’s program focuses on translational management and research in the medical field, which Ferrari has practiced at HMRI. He brings these methodologies to the courses he teaches at UST, which began in fall 2015.

Ferrari can’t emphasize enough that the lack of optimum care provided to patients is based on the weak link between the practice of medicine in clinics and the practice in laboratories. “The translation from lab to clinic is spectacularly inefficient,” said Ferrari. “Some patients never make it to the clinic, which is a huge ethical tragedy. These exceptionally inefficient and expensive pathways are commercial failures.” The master’s courses are his way of building a solution to the problem.

As a Roman Catholic serving at faith-based HMRI and now contributing his expertise to UST and Vatican City, his life’s work aligns with the Catholic tenets instilled at the University of St. Thomas. As students are encouraged by the UST mission to embrace “goodness, discipline, knowledge, and community,” Ferrari’s work and the notions of mission supported by the pontifical academy are representative of these core values.

How UST Students Can Follow the Path of Service in Ethics

Ferrari says his life philosophy can be distilled down to one word: “Service.” For students interested in pursuing work in a similar vein, he believes the best thing you can do is to focus on service and work hard. Ferrari said of himself, “I am the butler of the operation here. I am the server of the employees and the server of people I serve. Service gives your life meaning and purpose.”

Everyone has to design their life and career path. Never cut corners. Put in the hard work and make sure you know that everything needs to be designed for the long haul.

He also offered this advice: “Everyone has to design their life and career path. Never cut corners. Put in the hard work and make sure you know that everything needs to be designed for the long haul.” Whatever field you’re in, realize that success comes from the desire to give yourself to a greater cause. Ferrari is proof of this and an inspiration to the entire UST campus and the medical world.

Ready to learn more about UST’s ethics-based programs? Get in touch today, and we’ll send you more info.

by Ashley Rzepecki