From Humble Beginnings to Lasting Impact
Growing up in the Ozarks during the Great Depression, Lester Martin, MD, thought he’d follow in his father’s footsteps, tending to their small family farm. He never dreamed he’d develop life-saving surgical techniques that would change pediatric medicine. But that’s exactly what he did—right here at Cincinnati Children’s.
Thanks to the encouragement of one special high school teacher and his own inner calling to help people, Dr. Martin found his own path. One that took him through battle in World War II, Harvard Medical School and eventually led to him serving as the founding director of our Division of Pediatric Surgery.
Dr. Martin and his wife, Joan, made Cincinnati home with their children in 1957, and it wasn’t long before he became one of the Queen City’s most respected surgeons. He performed the first pediatric liver and kidney transplants in Ohio. And he helped establish Cincinnati Children’s commitment to innovation when he developed a new life-changing surgical procedure for children with ulcerative colitis, which remains the world’s standard of care today.
Yet it wasn’t just his skill as a doctor that earned him the respect of his friends and colleagues. Dr. Martin was also known to be an inspiring mentor and compassionate, family-centered care provider.
“His skills as a surgeon, physician, teacher and kind caregiver are remembered by all of us lucky enough to work alongside him,” says Jeffrey Whitsett, MD, co-director of the Perinatal Institute. “And he’s honored and loved by the countless children and families he served for so many years.”
Dr. Martin passed away in April of 2020, but his legacy at Cincinnati Children’s will live on, thanks to his many contributions to the medical community and a generous gift from his estate to support pediatric surgery.
His donation will benefit the very work he developed and will help his successors improve upon it—giving more children a better chance at living a full and healthy life.