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John E. Martin Fellowship & Mental Healthcare Challenge

Please tag ‘Sean Koh’ in your donation, so I can give you a hat


Brunch in New Orleans

The John E. Martin Fellowship was established in 2015 to honor the courageous and inspiring life of John E. Martin by providing financial support to students pursuing careers focused on improving the quality of and access to mental healthcare.

The Fellowship conducts the John E. Martin Mental Healthcare Challenge (JEMMHC), which invites graduate student teams from around the world to develop innovative solutions to improve the quality of and access to mental healthcare. In 2021, JEMMHC awarded $25,000 to student teams who presented actionable and innovative ideas to improve the mental wellbeing of employees.

The Fellowship was founded by John’s son, Michael P. Martin, who is a good friend and the instigator of my decision to run the Atacama Crossing 2022. He will also be running the race, though his ultramarathon credentials far surpass mine.

The JEMMHC is an excellent initiative born out of tragedy. If either this site or the Fellowship speak to you, I encourage you to give generously to the program using the link below. Please make your donation in honor of Sean Koh (, if you are so inclined.

In Michael's Words:

As many of you know I founded the John E. Martin Fellowship in 2014, which has since grown into the John E. Martin Mental Healthcare Challenge (JEMMHC).  The initiative is three pronged with 1) a business case competition, 2) a speaker series, and 3) outreach programming that is intended to broaden diversity, equity, and inclusion, promote advocacy, and establish strategic alliances.

I would be remiss if I did not share that the inspiration for the mental healthcare challenge is one born of tragedy.  On July 6, 2013 my wife and I married in Bansko, Bulgaria before our family and friends. Less than a week later, a truck struck the vehicle my parents, in-laws, aunt and uncle, and family friends were driving in upon returning from a trip to Greece.  My father, John E. Martin, was killed instantly, while my father-in-law succumbed to his injuries and died a few days later. Life changed in an instant. A joyous time suddenly became a nightmare.

As I tried to make sense of the tragedy I was reminded of Viktor Frankl’s wise words in Man’s Search for Meaning: “[i]n some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.”  As I thought about what my father’s life meant, the idea of redemption kept coming to mind.

My father was not perfect nor without issue.  He was an alcoholic who followed in the footsteps of his father, just as he had followed in the footsteps of his father, my great grandfather.  Fortunately, for me and those he loved, my father found sobriety after decades of suffering. Upon hitting bottom he took the first of the twelve steps, and embarked on a profound journey.  As he put in the work he discovered a new purpose.  He went back to school to become an addictions counselor, and more specifically, a counselor for those returning from combat in the operating fields of Iraq and Afghanistan just as he did some 30+ years earlier returning from Vietnam.  He transformed a horrendous chapter in his life into something positive… Trash became treasure.

It was my father’s transformation that gave me and continues to give me the energy, the will, and the want to do the same. In establishing my father’s eponymous fellowship and mental healthcare challenge I am enabling his dream to be fulfilled, which was to improve 1) the quality of and 2) the access to mental healthcare.

Please tag ‘Sean Koh’ in your donation, so I can give you a hat