Hayes Martin was born in Dayton, a small town in north central Iowa. He attended the University of Iowa at Iowa Falls before being accepted to the medical school in 1913 on the same campus, finishing 4 years later in a class of 20.
World War I began in April 1917 while Hayes was in his final year of medical school. Many of his classmates at the medical school were in the Army ROTC units; however, Dr. Martin opted for the Navy, which he joined on the day America entered the war. He traveled to Europe on the USS Arkansas and was assigned to his permanent duty station at the U.S. Navy Air Station, La Trinite Sur Mer, France – a small seaside village on the southern coast of Brittany. The purpose of this base was antisubmarine warfare using blimps and kite balloons. Dr. Martin was made commanding officer of the air station for a brief period of time when the line officer in charge had become ill; it was a unique position for a medical officer in the Navy to take command during wartime.
After the war, Dr. Martin returned to the U.S and sought out an internship at the old Poly Clinic Hospital in New York City, which was temporarily made into a Veteran’s Administration hospital. Part of his internship was spent at Bellevue in the fourth surgical division, where he felt he would have the best possible training in general surgery. The chief of the second division was John A. Hartwell, MD, the distinguished surgeon memorialized by the Fellow’s Room in the library of the New York Academy of Medicine. Dr. Hartwell suggested that Dr. Martin go to Memorial Hospital to learn about cancer.
Dr. Martin received an internship at Memorial in the summer of 1922 and stayed on as a resident until 1923. He then had two years at the second surgical service at Bellevue, where he operated to his heart’s content and got the surgical education he so strongly desired. Once he finished his residency, Dr. Martin returned to Memorial where he joined as clinical assistant surgeon on the staff.
Dr. Martin made the use of aspiration biopsy on all solid tumors popular throughout Memorial. Now, this procedure is done throughout the world. Dr. Martin co-authored the first report on the subject published in the Annals of Surgery. Numerous other articles followed, including Dr. Martin’s two most famous publications, “Cancer of the Head and Neck,” published in two issues of the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1948, and “Neck Dissection,” appearing in Cancer in 1951. These two papers were so extensively requested that the American Cancer Society made reprints by the thousands available to those who requested them as many as 20 years after publication. Dr. Martin’s bibliography encompasses more than 160 articles.
In 1934, Dr. Martin was appointed Chief of the Head and Neck Service at Memorial Hospital. It wasn’t until 1940 that surgery began to take over as the treatment of choice for the majority of cancers of the head and neck. In that year, the beginnings of improved anesthesia permitted advances in surgery. Later, during World War II, antibiotics became available and surgery began to dominate much of head and neck cancer management.
Dr. Martin wrote extensively on many subjects, most within the realm of head and neck surgery. His ideal was to be the complete head and neck surgeon and he treated a wide variety of head and neck abnormalities. His book, Surgery of the Head and Neck Tumors, was published in 1957.
Dr. Martin retired from active practice in 1957 at the age of 65. He performed his last operation at Memorial Hospital, assisted by Dr. Elliot Strong, in October 1959, but continued to see patients in his office until he passed away in 1977.