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Retired dentist honors late wife with gift to UMMS

Supports Parkinson’s disease research in Department of Neurology

February 2017

retired dentist

When Rita Martel died from complications due to Parkinson’s disease the day after her 87th birthday in October 2015, her husband Maurice (Marty) Martel, DDS, knew just how he wanted to honor her life and their 60 years of marriage: by backing Parkinson’s disease research at an institution he has supported for years, in the hopes that it may someday help people like Rita.

“There’s not a vaccine or anything available today to change the course of Parkinson’s, only medication to help manage symptoms, which can be hard to figure out,” Dr. Martel said. “With the research they’re doing at UMass Medical School—not just in the lab but at the bedside—I’m confident that eventually we’ll see a solution.

“I originally got involved in supporting biomedical research at the Medical School through the former Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research, which merged with UMMS around 1998,” he said. “Since then, I have been a longtime member of the Hudson Hoagland Society, which supports basic science research there.”

Immediately following Rita’s death in 2015, Dr. Martel and his family requested that memorial gifts made in her name be directed toward Parkinson’s research at UMMS. When he learned the following year that he could transfer some of his retirement monies there as well, Dr. Martel decided to increase his personal support.

“My accountant informed me that I could direct up to $100,000 of my IRA each year—tax-free—to a charitable organization,” said Dr. Martel.

This type of distribution may be excluded from the IRA owner’s income, resulting in lower taxable income.

“I’d been self-employed all my professional life and had a traditional IRA,” he said.

His financially astute wife, who had supported him through dental school at Northwestern with her work as a physical/occupational therapist, had established the IRA when Dr. Martel set up his dental practice in Holden.

“We were both oriented to frugality, so I regularly put money toward my retirement,” said Dr. Martel, who had also been a member of the faculty at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. “Through the magic of compounding interest, it worked out very well for me; 20 years out of dental practice, I’m still living on my IRA very comfortably.”

“Based on my interest in biomedical research, how Parkinson’s disease affected Rita and having a very successful financial plan, I couldn’t think of a better place to direct that money than to UMass Medical School.”

In September 2016, Dr. Martel met with several UMMS scientists—including Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research, and chair and professor of neurology—who presented him with a proposal for funding a movement disorders fellowship.

“It is critical that young neurologists have opportunities for advanced training to deliver expert, comprehensive care to patients living with Parkinson’s disease,” said Anindita Deb, MD, and Kara Smith, MD, assistant professors of neurology and neurosurgery at UMMS and fellowship co-directors in the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center. “This fellowship will enable a highly qualified candidate to develop expertise in Parkinson’s clinical management and pursue new directions in clinical research.”

“There are still so many unknowns in this neurological disease,” said Dr. Martel. “There are similarities to ALS—Lou Gehrig’s disease—and there’s a lot of ALS research at UMass Medical School under Dr. Brown, which is encouraging.”

Based on the compelling case made by Drs. Deb and Smith, Dr. Martel decided to direct $100,000 of his IRA to establish the Rita M. Martel Fellowship in Parkinson’s Disease.

“I’m pleased to do this in Rita’s memory,” he said. “I hope it will inspire others to support Parkinson’s research, too.”

From left are Maurice (Marty) Martel, DDS, pictured with Kara Smith, MD (left), and Anindita Deb, MD.