Patricia Joan Martens was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1952 to Howard and Hazel Weber. Patricia began her career in education, teaching chemistry and mathematics at St. Mary’s Academy in Winnipeg from 1973 to 1978.
Patricia met Gary Martens during their undergraduate degrees at the University of Manitoba in the early seventies. They were married in 1974 and moved to Kleefeld, Manitoba in 1978. Their first son, John, was born the same year. A few years later, they had a daughter, Rebecca. In Kleefeld, Patricia cultivated her interest in breastfeeding. Beginning in 1978, she led the local chapter of La Leche League, a nonprofit organization that supports breastfeeding. She obtained her IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) designation in 1987, and re-certified every five years.
Patricia received her Masters degree in Community Health Sciences from the University of Manitoba on October 20, 1994. Her thesis is entitled Breastfeeding Choice and Duration: A Prospective Study of Women and Infants in Four Southern Manitoba First Nations Communities. In it, she concludes that “[i]ntervention at a community level could target breastfeeding confidence, referent support, and beliefs. Intervention by health care providers may decrease early weaning due to preventable problems” (p. ii).
She received her Ph.D five years later, also from the University of Manitoba. Her dissertation is entitled Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Breastfeeding Promotion Community Strategy in Sagkeeng First Nation. She concludes by writing, “[b]ut most important of all, it [a breastfeeding promotion strategy] requires commitment, especially by the women of the community, as they make the journey from forgotten traditions to remembered, shared experiences” (p. 263).
Patricia began work at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy in January 1999 as a research associate. The Centre is a research unit in the University of Manitoba, partially funded by the Province of Manitoba to publish a certain number of health policy-related reports each year. The Centre is concerned with the health of Manitobans and strives to answer the question, "What makes people healthy?"
Originally succeeding the Centre's Director Noralou Roos in the position of Acting Director in June 2004, she was made Director and Senior Researcher of the Centre in June 2005, a position she held for ten years. Concurrently, she held the position of Associate Professor, and later full Professor, in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba.
She was integral in forming The Need to Know Team, a collaboration between the RHAs (Regional Health Authorities), Manitoba Health, and researchers at the Centre. The Need to Know Team was originally funded by a CIHR (Canadian Institute of Health Research) grant, from 2001-2006. Patricia was a vibrant speaker and during her time at the Centre, she traveled extensively to speak on deliverables (reports published by the Centre) and other health-related topics.
Patricia is the author of over 300 publications. A partial list of her publications is available. She is also very well decorated, as she is recognized as a leader in her field. Among her awards are the 2005 CIHR Knowledge Translation Award for Regional Impact, the 2010 Manitoba YM/YWCA Woman of Distinction for Health & Wellness, the Order of Canada (2013), the 2013 R.D. Defries Award, the 2014 Justice Emmett Hall Laureate Award, and she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2013.
In 2013, Patricia was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Patricia passed away on January 10, 2015. She will be remembered for her generous spirit, her way of cultivating a strong sense of community, and turning dry topics into stimulating discussions.
Dr. Brian Postl, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba
Patricia was a strong and inspirational leader. She worked tirelessly to improve the health of Manitobans. Students and colleagues, both locally and around the globe, looked to her as a role model in the field of population health research.