Our New CED Board Chair’s Story

Jun 22, 2022 | CED_info

Fabiola Martinez-Licona


My name is Fabiola, and I am from Mexico. When the time came to choose a university degree, I had my doubts. I didn’t know whether to go to basic, applied, social or biological sciences, so I was influenced by my family and applied first to Economics.

After entering the university, I realized that it was not for me and decided to switch to engineering. I remember perfectly that, on the day of the switch, the authority gathered all the applicants in the same room; most were from engineering to switch to social sciences, and only two of us were doing the opposite. Despite the change, I still wasn’t sure I had made the right decision.


I studied biomedical engineering without knowing what I would find; all I knew was that I would study electronics and medicine. I wasn’t expecting a whole new way of looking at healthcare. Initially, I specialized in biomechanics, but the practice led me to work in the young Biomedical Engineering (BME) Departments of two of the most important institutions in my country, the General Hospital Dr. Manuel Gea González and the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery Manuel Velasco Suárez. There I had the opportunity to get in direct contact with the needs in care delivery and how a pair of tweezers and screwdrivers could make a difference. I also had the chance to witness some of the most significant technology changes, such as the implementation of the first minimally invasive surgery procedures, substantial changes in the generation of equipment such as electrosurgery, or the application of medical images in something more than the cardiovascular system. Similarly, at the hospital I had the opportunity to implement the first HTM processes and actions providing quality assurance.


The BME departments were small in number but very high in quality and willingness to make a difference. There, I understood that focused preparation was one of the best ways to advance my knowledge, so I chose to pursue a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. At that time, it was the only one in my country and was strongly oriented toward research. The investigative rigor developed at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana (UAM) of Mexico City, a pioneer in Biomedical Engineering, allowed me to identify problems and situations in the hospital, propose methodologies to address and solve them, and foresee the future scenarios that, as clinical engineers, we would face. From this preparation and for more than 28 years, I have been helping to prepare clinical engineers teaching subjects in HTM, HTA, quality, safety, health economics, and artificial intelligence, in addition to having had the opportunity to direct over 50 student projects. Working in a university is a privilege. Despite external pressures such as financial or political, we try to develop academic, research, and dissemination activities with the highest quality possible, and the results are usually extraordinary.


My stay at UAM has allowed me to enhance my health system understanding in my country, the Latin American region, and more recently, globally. And thanks to this, I decided to undertake a doctoral study in administrative sciences, where I could develop my reference framework for medical technologies. I chose to focus particularly on those aspects that impact and integrate outputs in device design, development, use, and management. I also discovered a fascinating universe where areas of knowledge such as economics, politics, sociology, and even anthropology have much to contribute to a deeper understanding of the concept of health that goes beyond the absence of disease. In a way, I closed the circle by returning to the study of economics that I postponed years ago.


My stay at UAM has also given me the opportunity to go to extraordinary places and meet people from all over the world, to interact and learn from them, and above all, to contribute with my work to the field of biomedical engineering. I wouldn’t know how to answer if you asked me what my “aha” moment was. There are several moments in which “me cayó el 20 (the 20 fell on me)”, a Mexican way of saying my “aha moment”. One of them was the first international conference I attended while I was still a student. It was the 1994 IFMBE World Congress held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I could measure the importance of health and technology issues at that time. Everything came together: a magical place, a gigantic convention center, at least for me, a group of more than 60 Mexicans who went to the congress together, and a reasonably warm climate. Interacting with people from different backgrounds whose common denominator was an interest in developing work in biomedical engineering moved something in me. The enthusiasm with which fellow students from other countries presented their papers impressed me and somehow helped reinforce the idea that I had not made the wrong choice.


A second “aha” moment was the first time I exhibited at a congress. It was a paper on medical images and signal processing in a congress of the Mexican National Society of Biomedical Engineering (SOMIB), and it was significant because several things happened. First, the event was held in Puebla. Since it was close to Mexico City, I decided to go on the same day as my presentation. I didn’t count on an accident on the two-lane road connecting both places, and consequently, I would be late. Fortunately for me, the activities were delayed, and I could arrive “on time” to exhibit. Halfway through the exposure, the power went out. As I had my presentation in slides, we waited for the electricity to return to continue. This power-off event had been repeated that morning, so it was the cause of the delay. Those minutes of waiting, on other times, would have triggered my level of nervousness to the maximum. Imagine the picture: my first exhibition ever, my presentation to the biomedical society, in front of so many people, and the power goes out. But contrary to what I would have expected, a strange calm came over me, as if I were in my element, in a comfort zone. There, I knew that I had not chosen the wrong profession, and since then, I have dedicated myself to sharing what I have learned with my students with a pleasure that only comes from having the certainty that you belong there.


I now share this same enthusiasm, dedication, and love for the profession with my colleagues worldwide through the activities that the IFMBE Clinical Engineering Division promotes. I am motivated by being able to make a difference through collaboration with the most interesting, fun, and extraordinary people … the clinical engineers around the world! I owe my most significant moments, both as a professional and as a person, to those clinical engineers that I have known and to those I will know.