The International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®), along with the lactation profession as a whole, grieves the recent passing of Patricia Martens. Pat has been instrumental in the advancement of our field and her contributions will be missed.
We reached out to Dr. Anne Merewood, the editor for the Journal of Human Lactation (JHL) to share some stories and memories of her relationship with Pat. She shared:
There are several stories that stick in my mind about Pat that go beyond the research and teaching at which she so excelled. Pat and her husband had a farm (as well as an airplane), and some of her animal stories were her funniest. She told one about a sheep that had fallen over, and could not get up. The sheep was lying in her barn and no matter what she and Gary did, it was lethargic and refused to move. They fed it and cared for it as it was lying there declining, and they were sure it wouldn’t make it. They asked a local farmer who obviously had more experience than they did, what to do. The man looked at them as if they were mad and said, “Just stand up the sheep.” Those who knew Pat can imagine her description of this activity. Sure enough, Pat and Gary lifted up the sheep, stood it on its four feet, and off it ran.
She also loved to tell a story about a cow that had bloat and gas problems on Christmas, and a local farmer (there were a lot of them about, apparently) told them to feed it a bottle of soapy water. So there was Pat on a freezing cold Canadian winter Christmas Day, pumping a bottle of soapy water into the cow. The cow did an enormous burp and all its problems vanished.
Pat had ways of telling these simple funny stories and laughing along with you that were quite unique. She permeated all her research talks with humor. One can just imagine, as she told it, all her statistics students sitting in their exams, furtively waving their arms about and putting their fingers to their noses to remember the action-packed mnemonics that helped everyone to recall the complex statistical concepts she was so good at teaching. She combined humor, common sense, and research acumen to prove that you can lead an outstanding academic center without being aloof or pretentious. It was Pat who persuaded me to apply for the position of JHL editor. While I received plenty of wise counseling from many people during that application process and in the position ever since, it was Pat who looked at me with a big smile and said, “But of course you should do it.” She was always at the end of the phone with pragmatic, down to earth, straightforward advice.
When Pat first told me about her cancer, we knew it was bad news. “Now if I had to choose, this would NOT be my choice of a cancer to get…hoping I’m a friendly outlier. It’s weird to be sitting here working, feeling pretty good and looking just like I always do (except slimmer), and knowing that it is a flip of the coin if I survive the next 9 months. But my emotional/spiritual state of mind is just fine, so don’t worry about me. I’m a do-er, not a worrier, and I approach this as a very interesting scientific research project on the qualitative experience of cancer.” Pat lived 22 months after this email. She also said, “I couldn’t ask for a better more loving environment of support at work, home, and around the world.”
Good people should live longer. It will be hard to manage without Pat.
Barbara Wilson-Clay also offered the following remembrance:
We lectured together at several conferences, and got to know one another over dinners. Pat was one of the most talented teachers I’ve ever observed. Her wit and humor brilliantly transformed subjects like interpreting statistics. I once saw her make a crowd of several hundred health care professionals act out the nursery rhyme “I’m a Little Tea Pot” to clarify a statistical concept. Pat was kind enough, on several occasions, to look at manuscripts I was working on to check whether my conclusions about the research were sound on the basis of the numbers cited. She contributed hugely to our profession, to mothers and babies, and I’m sure her students at the university were changed forever by her instruction. I’m heart sick to hear she has passed away. I would have loved to tell her how I valued her.
In 2013, at the ILCA Conference in Melbourne, Australia, it was announced that JHL would begin awarding the JHL Patricia Martens Annual Award for Excellence in Breastfeeding Research. As was only appropriate, the inaugural award was given to Pat herself for her incredible body of research in the lactation field. While accepting the award, Pat graciously said,
“Thank you to all of my ‘journey friends’. I call you ‘journey friends’ because you don’t come to success without the persons, the places, and the times being fortuitous in your lifetime. We want to make those persons, places, and times fortuitous for everyone so that we may allow success for everyone. This is not an individual award. It is an award because I have such a wonderful community around me of ILCA, La Leche League, and all of the people who are my ‘journey friends’.”
We are so grateful for Pat and what she gave to our field and those around here. We are honored to be her “journey friends”. You may read Pat’s obituary HERE.
How did Pat’s work impact your practice? Do you have memories to share or a reflection to offer? We would love to hear from those who were influenced by Pat, not only for her research and teaching, but also for the care she provided to breastfeeding families. Please comment below or on our Facebook Page. These comments would be treasured memories for all who cared for Pat.