October 20, 1938

(Bassano, Alberta)


MD, University of Alberta (1962)
PhD, University of Rochester (1971)

Awards & Honours:

2017: Officer of the Order of Canada

2014: Honorary ScD, University of Ottawa

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Picture of Joseph Martin

Helped to establish the discipline of neuroendocrinology

Sketch of Joseph Martin

An innovative scientist, physician and exceptional leader

Born in southern Alberta to a Mennonite farm family, Dr. Joseph B. Martin has had an extraordinary decades-long career, 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. 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. Continued advancement of medical science depends 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 are essential to the organization and distribution of scientific knowledge.

Key Facts

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

Served on the editorial boards of the New England Journal of Medicine, the Annals of Neurology, and Science

Is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) where he chaired the committee that developed the Human Brain mapping initiative

Served as President of the American Neurological Association

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

Dr. Martin’s 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. Today, the Dana Farber Harvard Cancer Centre brings together more than 1,100 cancer researchers to advance the boundaries of cancer research, train future cancer researchers, and work with thousands of patients in clinical trials. Moreover, Dr. Martin continues to offer his wisdom to Canadian scientists, clinicians and institutions to support the work of the many major research institutions he helped to shape.

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  • Joseph Martin inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    Virtual Ceremony (originally scheduled to be in Vancouver BC)

  • Delivered the Bicentennial Holmes Lecture at McGill University

    Dr. Martin presented a historical narrative of the opening, in the same year (1821-22), of two great hospitals, the Montreal General and the Massachusetts General.

  • Dr. Martin published his memoir "Alfalfa to Ivy; Memoir of a Harvard Medical School Dean" (University of Alberta Press)

    Six years later, he published a set of essays based upon commencement addresses entitled: "Reflections on Science, Religion and Society: A Medical Perspective" (Friesen Press).

  • Upon stepping down as dean, Dr. Martin chose to remain at Harvard as the Edward R. and Anne G. Lefler Distinguished Professor of Neurobiology

    That same year, Harvard University recognized Martin’s contributions with the naming of the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at the medical school.

  • Throughout his career, Dr. Martin remained committed to Canadian excellence in research

    In 2005, he was a key figure in the development of the Ontario Brain Institute where he served as co-chair of the organizing committee for ten years.

  • Under Dr. Martin’s leadership as dean, the Dana Farber Harvard Cancer Centre was established

    Leadership in Organizational Development

    The Centre is home to seven affiliated institutions who collaborate to improve research practice and reduce the cancer burden.

  • Dr. Martin returned to Harvard to become Dean of the Faculty of Medicine

    Health and Medical Education & Training

    During his tenure at Harvard, the medical school curriculum was comprehensively revised, a project achievable only with the highest levels of insight, expertise, and leadership.

  • Dr. Joseph Martin became Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco

    Health and Medical Education & Training

    Four years later, he was promoted to Chancellor and led efforts to expand campus space devoted to biomedical, bioengineering and global health research.

  • While in the United States, Dr. Martin still played an active role in the promotion of Canadian health research

    From 1982 to 1987, he served on the Scientific Advisory Council for the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research

  • Dr. Joseph Martin developed an NIH-sponsored Huntington’s Disease Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital that brought together scientists from Harvard, MIT and Boston University

    Cells, Genetics & Genomics

    At the lab, Dr. Martin and his team performed ground-breaking work in the genetics of Huntington’s Disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Described as a bitter-sweet decision, Dr. Martin moved to Massachusetts to become the Bullard Professor of Neurology at the Harvard Medical School

    He was also appointed Chief of Neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

  • Dr. Martin returned to Canada to become Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University

    Within a few years, Martin was named Chair of the department and Neurologist-in-Chief at the Montreal Neurological Institute.

  • After graduating from medical school with the John W. Scott Gold Medal, Dr. Martin remained in Alberta to complete his internship at the University Hospital in Edmonton

    He then travelled to Cleveland, Ohio to complete his residency in Neurology at University Hospital, Case Western Reserve University.


He is capable of linking the best in patient care and advanced medical science.