John E. Martin Fellowship sparks health care innovation
Michael Martin, MBA 09
A personal loss prompted Michael Martin, MBA 09, to establish a fellowship intended to inspire innovation in the field of mental health. His father, John E. Martin, a Vietnam veteran who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol addiction, died in a car accident in 2013.
Launched in 2015, the John E. Martin Fellowship awards $10,000 each year to a full-time student from Berkeley Haas, the university’s School of Public Health, or its School of Social Welfare to start a business or participate in an internship devoted to improving mental health care quality and access.
“At the time of his death, my dad had been sober for almost a decade and had earned a degree in addiction counseling,” Martin says. “He used to always tell me, ‘You Berkeley guys need to do something about mental health’—and he was right.”
The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that one in four U.S. adults struggles with a mental disorder, but the illness’s stigma can prevent people from seeking treatment. Many of these are veterans, Martin says.
“All over the Bay Area, there are vets who don’t have access to mental health services,” he says. “If someone has cancer or Type 2 diabetes, we don’t think twice about getting them medical care, but that’s not the case when it comes to mental disorders.”
The first Martin Fellow was Danielle Spoor, MPH/MSW 16, who helped form a mental health action coalition in her hometown of Gualala, California. This year’s recipient is Callie Ryan, MBA 17, who’s developing a business that will not only raise awareness by sharing the stories of those coping with mental illness while living on the streets but also raise money toward food, shelter, clothing, or whatever they need most.
Entrepreneurship, Martin believes, is an under-utilized tool in the mental health sphere. And it’s also a passion for him. In January, he started a business called JINGO!, which offers a monthly subscription box of treats and toys for dogs; the firm donates a portion of its proceeds to organizations that help animals in need. Based in Singapore, where Martin lives, the new firm reflects his interest in holistic health.
“My dad loved dogs, and in fact, one of the best ways to treat PTSD is with pet therapy,” he says. “Having a dog in the house enhances people’s emotional welfare and physical health, and I wanted to create a company that fosters this relationship.”
With his business and the fellowship, Martin aspires to follow through on his father’s urging to improve mental health care.
“I hope the fellowship will motivate students to get involved in the mental health field—even to make it an area of focus at UC Berkeley,” he says. “There are business solutions to some mental health issues, and we want to provide seed money to get new ideas off the ground.” —Kate Madden Yee