At an early age, Dr. Paul Martin knew medicine was his calling.
Back in 1975, when bone marrow transplantation was in its infancy, and a leukemia diagnosis meant chances of survival were little more than zero, Martin had one of those Aha! moments that makes everything crystal clear.
"I was reading an article written by Dr. E. Donnall Thomas and members of his team in Seattle, describing their work using bone marrow transplants to treat leukemia," he said. "I couldn't have predicted that Dr. Thomas would go on to win the Nobel Prize for his research, but as I was reading that article, I knew where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do."
Influenced by Thomas’ paper, Martin came to the Hutchinson Center as an oncology fellow in 1977 and became fascinated by the challenge of caring for leukemia patients.
Martin now directs the Center's Long-Term Follow-Up program, which provides life-long monitoring and care of patients following a bone-marrow or stem-cell transplant. This enormously gratifying position has allowed him to influence the direction of research—always with an eye to improving the lives of patients following a transplant.
“I have seen so many changes during my time here, so many positive changes,” he said.
When Martin first started in medicine, doctors didn't perform transplants on patients over 50.
“Today, age doesn’t seem to be a limiting factor," he said. "And we have learned to manage infections so much better, thanks to help from infectious disease experts. We have seen enormous improvements in this area, preventing or controlling problems that claimed so many transplant patients in earlier years.”
Although most of Martin's current work involves research, he still finds the time to treat patients for about two months each year. His dedication to his patients and his work has earned him a long list of admirers.
Outside of work, with two grown children and four very young grandchildren, he and his wife have plenty to keep them busy.
And for a little extra company, his wife got a dog to keep them on the move.
“We're still negotiating the walking schedule,” he said.