In this issue, HCV Next asks five questions of Paul Martin, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the division of hepatology at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and HCV Next Editorial Board Member. Martin also holds affiliations with a number of other hospitals in his region, including Jackson Health System and the Miami VA Healthcare System.
Martin completed his medical studies at the University College Dublin in Ireland. During a career that has spanned more than three decades, he has played a key role in moving forward the fields of liver transplantation and hepatitis C virus by serving as chairman on the subspecialty board on gastroenterology of the American Board of Internal Medicine and as councilor-at-large for the American Society of Transplantation. Recently, Martin helped develop the Evaluation for Liver Transplantation in Adults 2013 practice guideline by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the American Society of Transplantation, as well as the new Recommendations for Testing, Managing and Treating Hepatitis C clinical guidelines issued by the AASLD and Infectious Diseases Society of America, in collaboration with the International Antiviral Society-USA.
Martin currently holds certifications in internal medicine, gastroenterology and transplant hepatology. He was awarded a fellowship in the American Gastroenterological Association in 2012 and also is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London and Dublin.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career?
I became interested in gastroenterology initially as a medical student in Dublin, Ireland, when I had a very charismatic professor, Oliver Fitzgerald. As a fellow, one of my teachers, Jerry Simon, fostered my interest in liver disease. I subsequently had the good fortune to work with Jay Hoofnagle and Adrian Di Bisceglie as a liver fellow at the National Institutes of Health.
What area of research in hepatitis most interests you right now and why?
I have been lucky enough to witness the rapid evolution of antiviral therapy for HCV. We are on the threshold of a very different and much more efficient and powerful way of managing this disease with all-oral drugs. It is exciting to be moving away from interferon-based strategies. What I am interested in now is seeing this disease eradicated with one pill or two pills taken for a relatively short period of time. Right now, we are getting used to the idea of regimens that are only 12 weeks long. This is striking for individuals like myself who prescribed interferon for 20 years for 48 weeks or longer, with frequent and often severe side effects. The progress we have made over the last few years is quite remarkable.
What advice would you offer a student in medical school today?
This is an era of unparalleled opportunity in managing human disease. Despite all of the background distractions and bureaucracy in our daily practices, the things we are able to do today are amazing. We are becoming more and more effective in our ability to ease human suffering. I can’t imagine the advances current medical students will see in their lifetime. They need to understand and enjoy this. As for advice, I would recommend that they try to find good mentors at every stage of their career.
Have you ever been fortunate enough to witness or to have been part of medical history in the making?
I was a hepatology fellow at the NIH when HCV was originally identified in 1990. This was an era when the virus wasn’t even called HCV, but rather non-A, non-B hepatitis. In the subsequent 24 years, I have seen our ability to diagnose HCV grow from a simple antibody test to the sophisticated molecular tests we have now, while also having increasingly effective therapies.
What do you enjoy doing to relax?
I would call myself a voracious reader. I enjoy books about European history most of all, but I read many different things. I also enjoy music. Two of my favorite composers are Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. Outdoor activities are also a big part of my life. Each year, I go with my family to a national park. This past year, we went to Olympic National Park in Washington.