Monday, June 9, 2008

RIP, Billy Martin

The Pharmacology world just lost a giant in the field. Dr. Billy Martin, chair of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and internationally renowned for his research in understanding addiction and drugs of abuse and how they affect the brain, died Sunday in Richmond. He was 65.

I'll have to admit that my heart felt like it dropped to my feet when I received the email that had Billy's name in the subject line. I felt really sad. I did remember that Billy had some health issues in recent years, but despite that, this news came as a shock to me. Billy was supposed to have received an award at the upcoming College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) conference. He always went to every ICRS meeting, no matter where it was in the world, and even though I'm really more on the periphery of the ICRS now, having dropped from the world of active research, I cannot imagine an ICRS meeting without Billy.

I first met him in 2000, at my first ICRS meeting in Baltimore. My advisor at the time, Brian Thomas, introduced us by stating that Billy was my academic grandfather (Billy was Brian's thesis advisor when Brian was a Ph.D. student in Pharmacology at VCU.) He was really nice, and was always very encouraging to young researchers like me. The last time I saw him was at a local Cannabinoid meeting at UNC-Greensboro. At the time, I was considering trying to write an application for a K01, but was expressing my doubts and reservations. Billy took me aside and strongly encouraged me to at least give it a go, and gave me lots of advice as to how I should go about doing it.

I will admit - I never did follow through, and now I'm out of that scene altogether. But I will never forget Billy's kindness and his patience. He will definitely be missed.

Rest in peace, Billy.

* In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Massey Cancer Center, P.O. Box 980037, Richmond, VA 23298-0037 or to The Foundation of Pharmacology, P.O. Box 980613, MCV Station, Richmond, VA 23298.

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