Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

Joseph Martin

Born in southern Alberta to a Mennonite farm family, Dr. Joseph B. Martin has had an extraordinary decades-long career as a scientist, physician, and administrator, helping to establish the discipline of neuroendocrinology and eventually serving for ten years as Dean of Harvard Medical School.  In all phases of his work, Dr. Martin has been distinguished for his ability to promote collaboration in building and expanding the institutional foundations of medical education and science in both Canada and the United States.  His legacy includes groundbreaking early work in the genetics of Huntington’s disease (HD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), development of an NIH-sponsored HD Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, an expanded campus at University of California, San Francisco devoted to biomedical, bioengineering, and global health research, the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, and the Dana Farber Harvard Cancer Center.  Dr. Martin was a key figure in the development of the Ontario Brain Institute where he served as co-chair of the organizing committee. He has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed articles, and co-edited Harrison’s Principles of Medicine, for five editions, one of the standard medical textbooks in North America.  His career has helped to ensure continued expansion of primary research and preparation of new generations of scientists and physicians at several of North America’s most important universities and research institutes.

Dr. Martin has served on the editorial boards of the New England Journal of Medicine, the Annals of Neurology and Neurological Science.  He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) where he chaired the Academy’s committee that led to development of the Human Brain mapping initiative. Dr. Martin was also a member of the Council of the NAM, formerly the Institute of Medicine, for two terms. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the American Association of Physicians and a member and past president of the American Neurological Association. Dr. Martin has received numerous other national and international distinctions throughout his career, including the Abraham Flexner Award of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), for his contributions to medical education.

Continued advancement of medical science depends increasingly on the skills exemplified by Dr. Martin.  The ability of scientist-administrators to marshal resources, to coordinate teams of researchers, and to model and foster collaborative exchange is essential to the organization and distribution of scientific knowledge. The concentration of research in universities requires management by administrator-scientists who fully understand the disciplines they supervise and support. During Dr. Martin's tenure at Harvard, the medical school curriculum was comprehensively revised, a project achievable only with the highest levels of insight, expertise, and leadership. The one characteristic that Dr. Martin's many colleagues have noted in his work is a reputation for honesty and the ability to inspire trust.  His work at Harvard, and his lifelong support of medical advancement in Canada, has extended the benefits of science throughout North America and the world.      

Dr. Martin is the recipient of eight honorary doctorate degrees and in 2007 was recognized by Harvard University with the naming of the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at the medical school.

Dr. Martin’s Memoir; Alfalfa to Ivy; Memoir of a Harvard Medical School Dean was published in 2011 by the University of Alberta Press.  In 2017, he published a set of essays based upon commencement addresses entitled: Reflections on Science, Religion and Society: A Medical Perspective (Friesen Press).