Lives of the fellows

John Kenneth Martin

b.11 April 1918 d.5 September 1997
MRCS LRCP(1941) MB BS Lond(1942) DObst RCOG(1942) DCH(1948) MRCP(1948) FRCPC(1962) FRCP(1970)

John Kenneth Martin, or ‘Ken' as he was always known to his friends, was the first full time professor of paediatrics and chairman of the department of paediatrics at the University of Alberta, Canada. Born in Hampshire, England, he was educated at Leighton Park, Reading, and went on to Guy’s in the autumn of 1936. When war broke out, the hospital and medical school were both evacuated to sector ten. He went to Farnborough, whence he qualified in 1941. There were, at that time, a few beds left available at Guy’s looked after by a small resident staff. Ken was the out-patient officer and subsequently the house surgeon. On call up, in 1942, he joined the RAMC in which he served for the next four years, mostly in a field ambulance. Troubled by sciatica, he was excluded from overseas service.

On leaving the Army he completed his postgraduate training in the Guy’s sector, at Orpington and Farnborough, and was subsequently a house officer at Great Ormond Street. He acquired his MRCP at this time.

Thus well qualified, he emigrated to Canada, initially to Winnipeg, but soon to Edmonton. There he worked through a severe epidemic of poliomyelitis effecting Western Canada from 1952 to 1957, taking his turn caring for these patients at the King George V Infectious Diseases Hospital. In 1957 he was appointed the first full time professor of paediatrics and chairman of the department of paediatrics at the University of Alberta. During a time when medical services were being expanded and amply funded, he was absolutely the right person for the post. For the first time, on the strong and tactful persuasion of Ken, the neonates, heretofore cared for by the obstetricians, came under the custody of the paediatricians. More staff were recruited, a graduate training programme established, the undergraduate programme was revised, laboratory and radiological facilities were modified to meet the needs of children and general and specialty out-patient clinics were created or reorganized. All these developments added to the growing reputation of the paediatric services in the province. His greatest success however was in the consolidation of services for children with long term disabilities in a unit that came to be known as the Glenrose Hospital.

While living in Edmonton, Ken had maintained his interest in sailing, taking a second home in Sidney, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where he was able to take his boat to sea. In 1971, feeling that he had achieved most of what he had set out to do in Edmonton, he looked for a post in Victoria, the main town on Vancouver Island, and in due course was appointed director of medical services at Glendale Lodge, a residential facility for the care of mentally disabled people of all ages, and this constituted a real challenge for him in his later years. He was furthermore able to pursue his interest in neuropathology which had developed in Edmonton and on which he presented papers at various international meetings. By the time he retired he had fully proved his organizational skills, though at heart he had always been primarily a clinician and a teacher. For many years towards the end he suffered the miseries of ankylosing spondylitis, becoming more and more incapacitated, and ultimately developed virtual blindness. These disabilities he bore with remarkable cheerfulness. Few but his wife, Beatrice Mary (née Workman), knew how unhappy he was. He died on at home, and was buried at sea, his ashes scattered over the waters where he had enjoyed sailing.

[Guy's Gazette, Feb 1998]

(Volume X, page 332)

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