Back in 1975, when bone marrow transplantation was in its infancy, and a leukemia diagnosis meant chances of survival were little more than zero, Dr. Paul 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. 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,” he said.
“You could say that my path into medicine was pretty straightforward. I knew at a very early age that I wanted to be a doctor,” he said. “But Dr. Thomas’ paper had a lot of influence on which path to take. In 1977, I came to the Hutchinson Center as a fellow in oncology, and I became quite fascinated by the challenge of caring for leukemia patients.”
Martin is 62 now and director of LTFU, an enormously gratifying position that 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 I was a fellow, we didn’t do transplants for patients over 50. Today, age doesn’t seem to be a limiting factor.
“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.”
Today, most of his work is in research, but he still finds the time to treat patients for about two months each year.
And his dedication to his patients and his work has earned him a long list of admirers.
“He has done a great deal of innovative work and made valuable changes and contributions to LTFU,” said Peggy Adams Myers, project manager for LTFU research.
“I have been very impressed by his concerns for the patients,” she said. “He is not only a researcher; he’s an exceptional physician. He has a lot of insight on how things affect patients.”
Part of that insight is reflected in the patient questionnaires “He has always sought to get a genuine balance, a sense of what patients go through,” she said.
But it’s not all work, Martin said. 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.