Willy-John Martin is mātāmua to eight brothers and five sisters, and uncle to a multitude of nieces and nephews. He warmly describes his kaupapa as doing science that is of priority to Māori health.
Dr Martin is a forerunner in biomedical science and is our only Māori Cellular Immunologist. He has spent many days in the science laboratory thinking about a diverse range of immune mysteries, while intently experimenting, interspersed with absent-minded tapping and clapping to the invisible band in his head.
Dr Martin has investigated the biological properties of rongoā Tuhoe, particularly as a treatment for inflammatory arthritis, at the Bioactivity Investigations Group at the University of Otago, Wellington. As the first Māori PhD at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, he elucidated cellular and molecular mechanisms underpinning gouty arthiritis. Recently, Dr Martin undertook the first Indigenous health research project in the 100 year history of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), in Melbourne. At WEHI, he helped establish their first Indigenous Reconciliation Committee; helped to enshrine new cultural practices; and sought out new treatments and diagnostic leads for acute rheumatic fever - a condition that impacts many tamariki and rangatahi across the Pacific.
On top of all this brilliance, Dr Martin loves to kanikani. He is a very accomplished salsa dancer and a fledgeling flamenco dancer. As a former Salsa teacher in Wellington, his passion for this art form inspired many Māori to take up salsa dancing and enjoy Latin music. Dr Martin is also a passionate vegetarian foodie, loves Indigenous foods, and is a connoisseur of one Indigenous food in particular - chocolate!
Dr Melanie Cheung