Dr. Joseph Marotta, the former team physician for Siena College and area pro sports teams who went on numerous philanthropic missions to bring medical care to impoverished sections of Africa, died suddenly Monday night, his son Joe Marotta reported on social media. The orthopedic surgeon was 57 and lived in Menands.
A 1980 Siena graduate, Marotta ran Medicus Christi, a charitable organization set up to bring medical care and training to impoverished parts of the world. Marotta, a devout Catholic, called the mission “his calling,” and it had been blessed by Pope Benedict XVI and recently received a grant from Pope Francis.
On his Facebook page, the doctor said, “My greatest ambition is to serve our brothers and sisters overseas.” His goal was not only to provide care, but to set up lasting medical services.
“Unlike most medical ‘mission’ projects that travel overseas to perform a service and then come home, leaving no lasting presence behind, MC intends to go the next step,” Marotta explained on his LinkedIn page. “We have established an Orthopedic hospital and teaching facility in an underserved region (Ghana with 24 million people has only 12 trained Orthopedic Surgeons!).
“Our aim is to empower the people we serve so that they can progress their own social and economic healthcare development autonomously. This medical care center and educational program is the only one of its kind in Africa.”
Marotta was a familiar face at the Times Union Center; from 1993 to 2012 he served as the team doctor for Siena College athletics. He also was the team doctor for the Albany Firebirds and Albany Conquest Arena Football League teams, the Albany Attack indoor lacrosse team, and the Albany Diamond Dogs professional baseball team.
Former Siena president Fr. Kevin Mullen ‘75, O.F.M., was a close friend of Marotta.
“Dr. Joe Marotta will be forever known as a loving son, brother, husband, father, physician-healer, friend, and a dedicated Catholic-Franciscan missionary,” Mullen said in a statement. “He was my friend and my doctor who significantly improved the quality of my life by using his skills as an orthopedic surgeon to replace my degenerating hips.
“He put his passion into practice by establishing Medicus Christi, an organization dedicated to improving medical care for people around the world.” Mullen continued. “Joe has left his family and his friends without having the opportunity to say goodbye. Nonetheless, he leaves a legacy of fundamental goodness and a belief that we can work together to better the lives of all people. Joe’s example will continue to inspire us and challenges us to continue the work he began.”
Former players and associates expressed condolences on social media for the popular doctor.
“Your father was truly a great person,” Mousse Diop, a Siena basketball player in the mid-2000s, wrote in reply to the son’s Facebook post. “As a former Saint [I] must say he always had a kind word to help us forget our aching bodies. . . . RIP DOC.”
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine graduate was the president of the medical staff at Samaritan Hospital in Troy, where he had served as the chief of the Division of Orthopedic Surgery since 1998. He chaired the Department of Surgery there from 2006 to 2012.
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany called Marotta’s death “a profound loss.”
“Those who, like myself, had the blessing of knowing and working with Dr. Joe will never forget his love for his family and the people he served,” he said. “As a fellow member and supporter of Medicus Christi, I was always inspired by the unflinching pursuit of the vision he framed and the works he engaged in to assist those most in need, particularly in his desire to bring the best medical care to those not so fortunate as us in the developed countries of the world. I can think of no one I know who better served as a model for what it means to live the works of mercy.”
CORRECTION: An earlier online version of this story had the incorrect medical school Marotta attended.