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Video Series “Standing Out”: Martin Meuli, Pediatric and Fetal Surgeon

Operate or Opera?

As a medical student at UZH, Martin Meuli flirted with the idea of becoming a professional singer. In the end, he decided to pursue a career in medicine.
Brigitte Blöchlinger
Martin Meuli was gifted in many ways at a young age and for a long time wasn’t sure whether he wanted to pursue a career in singing or in medicine. In the end, the UZH alumnus became a renowned pediatric and fetal surgeon and revolutionized the treatment of children with severe burns and fetuses suffering from spina bifida. Martin Meuli will retire at the end of July 2020. Watch the video to find out about his career and his second passion, singing. (Video: Brigitte Blöchlinger, Priska Feichter, UZH)


In 1984, Martin Meuli received some excellent news: He had been accepted into the International Opera Studio at the Zurich Opera House. The young resident physician was elated, but at the same conflicted – should he continue on the path of medicine or pursue a career as opera singer? His heart favored the latter, but in the end his head prevailed and Martin Meuli went on to gain his doctorate in medicine at UZH and become a surgeon. It wasn’t until he got a position as attending physician at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich (Kispi) that his passion for medicine truly started. “It was something you could really get your teeth into,” he recalls in the video. And still to this day, some 30 years later, Meuli’s desire to achieve great things in the field of surgery is obvious.

Courage to innovate

Martin Meuli made a name for himself as a pediatric surgeon who didn’t shy away from innovative practices. In 1989, he became head of the pediatric burn center at Kispi and, together with cell biologist Ernst Reichmann, developed a new treatment concept for children with severe burns. Reichmann was able to grow healthy skin cells from the body in the lab, which Meuli then transplanted to the skin of burnt children in the operating room.

In 2010, Martin Meuli introduced yet another innovation with fetal surgery, which refers to procedures on unborn babies. He is the first surgeon in Switzerland, and one of the very few worldwide, to operate on fetuses suffering from spina bifida.

Martin Meuli will retire at the end of July 2020. Judging from the above video, however, it is very likely that he will use his newly gained free time to achieve one of his long-held dreams. “Or several of them…,” he adds with a wink.

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