Physician's profile: Dermatologist, professor earns respect for innovative research

November 1, 2009

Earlier this year, 200 colleagues attended a surprise 75th birthday dinner for Martin C. Mihm Jr., M.D. The fact that colleagues from around the world gathered to celebrate his birthday is no surprise.

Key Points

Earlier this year, 200 colleagues attended a surprise 75th birthday dinner for Martin C. Mihm Jr., M.D. The fact that colleagues from around the world gathered to celebrate his birthday is no surprise.

Dr. Mihm collaborated not only with Dr. Clark, but also with Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, M.D., and John Raker, M.D., to co-found the first pigmented lesion clinic in the country at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

Dr. Mihm served 20 years as co-director of the Melanoma Pathology Program, World Health Organization. He was recently elected co-director of the Melanoma Pathology Program of the European Organization for the Research and Treatment of Cancer.

Dr. Mihm formed the dermatopathology fellowship program at Massachusetts General/Harvard Medical School in 1976, launching one of the country's first training programs in the specialty. Harvard adopted the program, securing dermatopathology's place in medicine.

In the past decade, Dr. Mihm has honed his interest in the biology of vascular tumors, specifically in children. He started a clinic for vascular lesions in children while he was at Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center, after meeting Linda Shannon, a woman whose child had a large lesion on her lower lip. Dr. Mihm referred Ms. Shannon to Milton Waner, M.D., who was known for this work with children.

Ms. Shannon suggested Dr. Mihm start the clinic. The idea spurred Dr. Mihm to launch a vascular birthmark foundation. Ms. Shannon helps to spread the word of the need for research for children's vascular birthmarks on the Internet.

"Out of this research, Dr. Paula North discovered that infantile hemangiomas in children have a special enzyme also found in the placenta. It is a uniquely diagnostic phenotype," Dr. Mihm says.

Children's clinics

Dr. Mihm has since helped to establish children's vascular lesion clinics providing free care in Spain, Greece and, soon, in Italy. In February 2009, he opened a clinic in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).

Dr. Mihm is also negotiating to open a clinic in the Middle East, but he cannot yet say where. He says he is focused on continuing melanoma and vascular tumor research.

"I hope to set up an institute for the study on melanoma (including vascular tumors) in children. I would like that to be an institute in cyberspace, where people from all over the world could participate," he says.