Everett Clinic surgical oncologist Dr. Steve Martinez is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Minority Medical Education Program which celebrates its 25th Anniversary this year.
Dr. Martinez was featured in an article "Center of Gravity," which talked about his education and training as a surgical oncologist and interest in researching disparities in cancer treatment.
Some excerpts from the article:
"The recipient of a long list of honors, including two American Society of Clinical Oncology Foundation Merit Awards, Martinez has worked with giants in the field. They include one of the John Wayne Cancer Institute’s founders, Donald Morton, MD, who transformed treatment of melanoma and breast cancer by developing a widely used technique for detecting whether cancer had spread.
'What we used to do routinely with skin cancer is take a wide area of the lymph nodes around the melanoma and remove them all,' says Martinez. 'It’s a great operation for finding out if any of those lymph nodes were involved, but a crummy one for most of the folks who come in with melanoma, because only 20 percent of them have involvement of the lymph nodes.'
The technique Morton developed, the sentinel lymph node biopsy, narrowed the focus to the lymph node closest to the tumor. 'You find it by injecting a radioactive dye and a blue dye, and make a radioactive map of where the dye goes,' explains Martinez. 'So instead of making a big incision and removing all of the lymph nodes, you can make a small incision and just remove the lymph node identified with the dyes. If that node is clear, the patient doesn’t need additional surgery.' The same procedure is now done with breast cancer as well."
"After a decade of splitting his work evenly between the clinic and the lab, Martinez now devotes 90 percent of his time to clinical practice and 10 percent to administration and research.
'My clinical practice is about 80 percent breast surgery, primarily breast cancer, and the additional 20 percent is either endocrine surgery or melanoma and soft-tissue cancers,' he says. He sees patients two to three times a week and operates twice, carving out additional time here and there for research.
It’s unlikely that his investigative prowess will be on the back burner for long, however. In fact, Martinez is already developing protocols to get local oncology surgeons involved in research.
'There’s no history in this area of any research being done,' he says. 'I need to get people thinking about it, get them involved with clinical trials and following patient outcomes more closely.' Among his areas of focus are new forms of surgery and treatment for breast cancer.
'That’s what I’ve had most of my training in,' he explains. 'It’s what I do best.'"