Arthritis National Research Foundation –
Dr. Martin Lee is a 32 year old consultant currently working at the Royal National Hospital in Rheumatic Diseases, Bath, UK. On April 1st he is setting off on a 2,600 solo kayak circumnavigation of the UK in an effort to raise £100,000 for the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS). His challenge will be to paddle 100 marathons in 100 days. He hopes that by completing this ultra-endurance event he will have raised by funds and awareness for rheumatoid arthritis. We were touched by Dr. Lee’s commitment to the cause and decided we’d like to know a little more about what drives his passion. Below is our interview with him.
What is your connection to arthritis? I grew up with my Aunt, Maureen, who has severe rheumatoid arthritis treated with biologic therapy and she inspired me to attend medical school and become a Rheumatologist with a specialist interest in rheumatoid arthritis. She is an incredible stoical, non-complaining and inspirational lady, like many of the patients whom I treat with rheumatoid arthritis.
Why did you decide kayaking would be a great way to raise funds and awareness? I wanted to raise money for NRAS as they have been a fantastic support to my Aunt as well of many patients whom I treat with rheumatoid arthritis. By kayaking around the UK I can speak to local media and NRAS groups and I hope to raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis.
How does rheumatoid arthritis affect your life? I look after patients with rheumatoid arthritis everyday of my working life and achieve a great deal of satisfaction from trying to help them reduce their pain and stiffness and maintain their function.
At the Arthritis National Research Foundation we feel research is the key to finding new treatments and a cure. This is why we focus our efforts strictly on funding cutting-edge research. How do you feel about the research underway and what would you like to see happen? It is an exciting time for Rheumatologists as many new treatments are being developed that can potentially transform patient’s lives. One key aspect to the current research is personalized medicine so that in the future we hope to be able to identify which patients will respond to which medications and therefore treat patients effectively and early using biomarkers and perhaps genetics.
Also, do you feel research is most important in the fight against arthritis? Research is integral to help us develop novel approaches to combat inflammatory and destructive changes that occur in rheumatoid arthritis.
At the Arthritis National Research Foundation we have started the Racing For A Cure program. Why do you feel it is beneficial for people to use sport to raise awareness, such as your kayaking challenge? I think it is important that we raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis so that people are aware of its signs and symptoms and how it differs from offer types of arthritis. Ultimately I hope it will mean that people with inflammatory joint symptoms will present earlier and therefore be treated earlier before joint damage occurs.
How rigorous is your training? What does it entail? I am working full-time and then training in the gym for 3 hours after work each day. At weekends I paddle in the sea all weekend to build up stamina. On top of this I am answering e-mails and requesting sponsorship as the logistical side of the challenge is also very time consuming. I am exhausted!
Do you have a message you’d like to convey to those suffering with arthritic diseases? If you can publicize my challenge as much as possible by visiting my website and printing of challenge posters and contacting media that will help me bring in sponsorship and achieve my goal. I am aiming to raise £100,000 which is a huge target so any sponsorship will be greatly received and will go directly to NRAS as I am funding all of the costs of the challenge myself and taking 4 months unpaid leave off work.
If people have questions how can they best contact you? People can contact me via my website www.martinkayaking.co.uk There are links on the website to my blog, my twitter and the challenge facebook site. There is also a link to my online sponsorship page.
While it might seem odd that we are supporting an individual who is not raising funds for the Arthritis National Research Foundation, it is important to remember what the ultimate goal is, and that is a cure for arthritis. Working together is an integral part in achieving this goal. We would like to thank the NRAS in the UK and Dr. Lee for helping raise awareness and joining in the fight against rheumatoid arthritis. To learn how you can help in the fight against arthritis here in the United States visit CureArthritis.org