When Dr. Dan Martin was 10 years old, his grandmother made him learn needlepoint. It wasn’t something many boys did in 1956, but she believed that the concentration and hand-to-eye coordination the craft required would lead her grandson to become a surgeon.
Grandma was right, and much sooner than expected.
“When I was 14, one of our neighbors cut her arm while playing at our house. My dad, who was a surgeon, drove us to the emergency room,” Martin said. “When we got there, Dad told me to go ahead and sew her up. So, I did, and then we all went home. That was my first surgery.”
Martin, who resides in Richmond, Virginia, has been named EndoFound’s first scientific and medical director. A retired gynecologist and specialist in excising endometriosis, Martin will help answer questions that patients and medical professionals bring to EndoFound while also improving and expanding the foundation’s education initiatives. He was honored at EndoFound’s Blossom Ball in 2013.
“Dr. Martin is a long-time friend and colleague who has practiced excision surgery for decades and knows its value to endometriosis patients,” said Dr. Tamer Seckin, founder of EndoFound with Padma Lakshmi. “He is so well-respected in the medical community, and to have someone with his knowledge and expertise join the EndoFound team instantly lifts the foundation to another level.”
Martin attended Emory University in his native state of Georgia in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He switched majors twice, not because he didn’t know what he wanted to do, but because he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“From what my grandma taught me and from making house calls to patients with my dad as a kid, I was pretty much on track to go into medicine my whole life, but I needed As to get into medical school,” Martin said. “I started with a history major, but I couldn’t get As. Then I went into math, and I was good at it, but it was a theoretical math department; I was into application math. So, then I went into physics.”
Martin, who also played soccer at Emory, remained there for four years of medical school.
“I delivered 190 babies, the second most of any med student,” Martin said. “It was just a different world back then. Most med students today aren’t allowed to do what we could do. We pretty much ran some areas of the hospital.”
At his department chair’s recommendation, Martin did his residency at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes in Baltimore, starting in 1972.
“He thought I should go into gynecology, and he thought Johns Hopkins would be the best place,” Martin said. “I was a country boy who knew nothing about Baltimore, and there was no way I would have ever gone there, but the chairman knew people at Hopkins. He was the reason I went.”
Martin later became a faculty member at Johns Hopkins as divisional director of medical education. He remained there until 1977 when he and his wife moved to Memphis to be closer to their families. Overall, Martin ran private and academic practices for 39 years before retiring to Virginia in 2006.
He is a professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, a community member of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institutional Review Board and a life fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He has published more than 400 papers on pelvic surgery for endometriosis and fertility, including 45 peer-reviewed publications.
Martin said he and Seckin approach endometriosis in similar ways, from how they care for their patients to how they do surgery. They also share the same philosophy on the importance of spreading awareness about the disease, which is still relatively unknown despite affecting one in 10 women in the U.S. That is one reason why this new position with EndoFound is so appealing to him.
“I’ve been teaching forever, and I will continue to help EndoFound educate,” Martin said. “I’ve always said that, as a surgeon, you look for what you know and you see what you look for, but if you don’t know to look for it, you don’t see it. That’s especially true with endometriosis. We’ve made a lot of progress, but it’s going to be a continuous journey. We are always looking to get better, and we all know that we can be better.”