Editor’s note — This is part one of a three-part series. Part two will run in Wednesday’s edition of the Daily Times.
Dr. Jeremiah Martin grew up in a rural community and now, through his medical profession, has returned to that familiar community to tend to those in need — well, sort of.
Martin is from Ireland. While in Portsmouth he might reside on a different continent, but Martin said there are several similarities between his youthful neighborhood and the place he now calls home.
“The geography reminds me a lot of home. The rolling hills, the greenery, the great outdoors; I love that a lot,” Martin said.
According to Martin, the residents in Portsmouth also resemble those back in his home country. In both communities, Martin has noticed that members don’t leave the area. Instead, they enjoy spending their lives in their hometown, showcasing a sense of pride for community.
“Patients that come to us from the country side, they’ve probably lived in the same area for multiple generations,” Martin said. “That reminds me of back home a lot. For our patients, their whole life is this community. They’ve grown up here, so they have that connection with the community and that connection between people, which is very different than what you see in the big city where everybody is anonymous, people just come and go. So, the fact that everybody knows everybody and everybody’s friendly, it’s something special.”
Martin is a cardiothoracic surgeon, heart and lung specialist. His interest level in his specialty peaked early during his medical school training. However, Ireland is a small country and post-graduate training opportunities are limited at best. His original plans were to study abroad in the United States and return home once his training was complete — but plans have a way of changing.
Martin started his training in New Haven, Conn., where he spent five years in general surgery. Once his training was over in Connecticut, Martin found his first cardiothoracic training position at the University of Kentucky. Although he was recruited as a thoracic surgeon, UK wanted Martin to bring a little more to the table. Upon hearing the news, Martin went to Duke University School of Medicine for one year to learn new, innovative techniques.
“I learned some advanced, minimally invasive cancer treatments and brought that back to UK, and worked for four years,” Martin said.
After working a couple of years at UK, Martin started contemplating his options. During the same time, Dr. Marion Hotchstettler from Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC) decided he wanted to retrain in cardiothoracic surgery and picked the University of Kentucky as his training grounds. Hotchstettler trained under Martin for two years as Martin was part of the fellowship-residency program.
“We worked together for two years,” Martin said. “During that time, he knew I was looking at jobs. He told me SOMC was hiring and the rest his history.”
Now, Hotchstettler and Martin are partners at SOMC. Hotchstettler specializes in cardiac and vascular. Martin specializes in cardiac and general thoracic, as well as lung cancer. Martin said his main interest is lung cancer, which serves him well as he tries to keep the residents of Scioto County healthy.
“Our region, this whole part of the country is what I call the ‘hotbed of lung cancer,’” Martin said. “We have the highest rates of lung cancer. We have the highest mortality. There’s a huge opportunity to make a difference here. That’s why I’m here.”
While Martin is passionate about lung cancer at this stage in his life, becoming a heart and lung surgeon wasn’t a forgone conclusion. In his home country of Ireland, there are no basic requirements for college — the year of soul searching to allow a teenager to find their true calling is nonexistent.
“In Ireland, we go to medical school directly out of high school,” Martin said. “It was actually really hard. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. You actually choose your terminal degree, so we don’t do college and then medical school, we go directly into medical school.”
At the age of 18, Martin didn’t know he wanted to be a surgeon. He knew he liked biology, science and medicine — and probably the most important part, Martin knew he liked helping people. Martin’s other interest at the time was music. The only question was how to balance the two options and formulate a career path.
“That first decision in my life was, ‘Well, if I don’t like medicine, I can flunk out of medicine and become a musician,’” Martin said. “It would have been hard to do the other way around. That’s why I went down the medicine road first and kept music as a hobby more than anything else.”
In medical school, Martin realized he had made the right career choice after meeting Stanley Monkhouse, a professor of anatomy. Martin was interested in the classical pipe organ in school and as it turned out, Monkhouse was an organist himself.
“From my first years in medical school, he would organize concerts and I would play,” Martin said. “We just kind of had that connection.”
Monkhouse was also a surgeon, before he became a teacher. He was one of Martin’s first mentors, becoming influential on Martin through his teaching methods.
“He appealed directly to my interests,” Martin said. “He was an anatomy professor, which directly ties into surgery, which is what I do every day. But then, also this musician on the side. I would say he was probably my biggest influence in medical school. We still stay in touch to this day.”
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1927, or on Twitter @crslone.