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Heather Martin Education Fund in Rheumatology

September 28, 2018

Cultivating and inspiring future leaders in lupus research and patient care.

In 1998, at just 19 years old, Heather Martin was diagnosed with lupus and sadly succumbed to the disease. An accurate diagnosis came only after she had seen a string of physicians; the eighth one correctly interpreted her symptoms. But at that point, the disease had progressed substantially.

About Lupus

As illustrated by Heather’s case, lupus can be extremely challenging to diagnose. This holds true even today. What’s more, the disease, which affects millions of people worldwide, predominantly women, has no cure.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that is chronic and complex. It produces common symptoms that include fatigue, joint pain, arthritis, rashes, and fever; most often the skin and joints are affected. What causes these symptoms? They arise due to inflammation, irritation of blood vessels, and tissue damage from the action of the patient’s own immune cells; in lupus, these cells attack certain tissues in the patient’s body, perceiving them as “foreign.” Because vital organs, such as the kidney, lungs, heart, and brain, can be damaged, it is critical that physicians spot and manage the disease early.

The Challenge

Researchers must uncover faster and better ways to diagnose lupus and more effective ways to treat—and hopefully cure—this devastating disease.

Heather Martin Education Fund in Rheumatology: Cultivating Leaders through Education

One of the first steps toward achieving groundbreaking diagnostic and treatment solutions is to arm future leaders in lupus with in-depth knowledge and a greater understanding of the disease. To this end, Kellie Martin and her husband Keith Christian have generously partnered with Yale School of Medicine (YSM) to create the Heather Martin Education Fund in Rheumatology in memory of Kellie’s sister. The fund will bolster lupus expertise, moving us closer to delivering novel solutions.

Specifically, the fund will support YSM students, residents, and fellows who are passionate about lupus and wish to undertake research or focused studies to gain an in-depth understanding of the disease. Lupus-focused educational activities the fund will support include:

  • Mentored training in lupus investigation
  • Early-stage research (through seed funding)
  • Professional development for trainees including educational seminars and meetings, and development of communication and leadership skills

Fund recipients will be mentored by members of YSM’s world-class lupus team, recognized by the National Institutes of Health and leading lupus organizations as a premier research team. Expertise on the team ranges from innate immunity to B- and T-cell immunity to mechanisms of inflammation in lupus. The team was recently selected to participate in a new North American network—the Lupus Clinical Investigators Network—established to accelerate the identification and development of next-generation therapies for lupus. In addition, because Yale regularly leads and/or participates in the clinical trials of potential new lupus therapies (developed internally or externally), the team is testing and learning about the most leading-edge treatment options. Through its pioneering basic, clinical, and translational research, the team is helping guide scientific discoveries and innovations from the lab to the clinic.

How to Give

To honor Heather, on this the 20-year anniversary of her death, Kellie and Keith have graciously and generously gifted funds to establish the Heather Martin Education Fund in Rheumatology.

They invite you to help in the fight against lupus by growing this fund dedicated to supporting outstanding, supplemental educational experiences for future leaders in lupus research and treatment—who may one day develop a cure!

Please consider a donation in any amount. To give, simply go to:

To send a gift by mail, please make checks payable to Yale University, with a memo indicating the designation for the Heather Martin Education Fund.

Checks can be mailed to:

Yale School of Medicine

Office of Development

c/o Erin Shreve

PO Box 7611

New Haven, CT 06519

Thank you so much for your support. We are so grateful!

Submitted by Julie Parry on October 03, 2018