This quarter’s ACE Member Highlight focuses on Dr. Alberto J. Caban-Martinez from the University of Miami, Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Born in Puerto Rico and a Miami native, Dr. Caban-Martinez assumed his current role as Assistant Professor (Tenure Track) in the University of Miami Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Environment & Public Health in August 2014. Dr. Caban-Martinez is an osteopath and board certified in public health, completed the Master of Public Health (Epidemiology) program at Nova Southeastern University in 2004, and received his Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Miami in May 2011. He recently completed a NIAMS-funded Clinical Orthopedic and Musculoskeletal Education and Training (COMET) Program fellowship at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital under Dr. Jeffrey N. Katz, an international expert on musculoskeletal disorders.
As one of the international leading experts on work-related musculoskeletal disorders, Dr. Caban-Martinez’ interdisciplinary programs of research aim to conduct robust occupational and environmental health surveillance activities and provide rigorous scientific evidence for effective ways to reduce musculoskeletal disorders and improve the well-being of worker populations through workplace health promotion interventions. Recently, Dr. Caban-Martinez was awarded the prestigious Gulf Research Fellowship from National Academy of Sciences to study the effects of the Gulf Oil Spill on the health of first responders. At age 35, he is already a Standing Member of National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Study Section, as well as a Member of the Musculoskeletal Disorders Committee of the International Commission of Occupational Health, the NIOSH Construction Sector Council, and the U.S. Institute of Medicine’s Committee of Gulf War and Health.
Beyond the scope of his current research, Dr. Caban-Martinez brings certain ineffable qualities to the field of epidemiology that strongly contribute to the cultural and intellectual richness of the field. Having received a BSc in Computer Sciences from the University of Miami, he possesses a strong background and insight into the inner workings of the statistical packages that epidemiologists use daily. After undergraduate training, Dr. Caban-Martinez moved forward into graduate school pursuing graduate public health training at Nova Southeastern University, expanding his knowledge in the population-level sciences and discovering his interest in musculoskeletal epidemiology and occupational health. “I believe medicine gives you the opportunity to work one-on-one with a patient and their ailment, while epidemiology trains you to design, develop and evaluate population-level interventions with broader reaching effects across communities. I always aim to maximize the use of my epidemiologic and computer skills by harnessing big data sources that inform the surveillance, evaluation, and development of workplace interventions that reduce musculoskeletal disorders”.
During his first two years of medical school, Dr. Caban-Martinez concurrently enrolled in Epidemiology PhD night classes at Florida International University. After completion of his second year of medical school, he enrolled full time at the University of Miami in the Doctorate of Epidemiology program, completing his training in three years under Dr. David J. Lee and Dr. Lora E. Fleming. His dissertation focused on the association between musculoskeletal disorders and health behaviors among U.S. workers, publishing one of the first studies establishing the link between arthritis morbidity and shorter lifespan in blue collar workers. The first son of Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants, Dr. Caban-Martinez possesses a lifelong passion for minority health disparities, focusing specifically on how occupational physical demands contribute to the development and severity of musculoskeletal disorders among Hispanic workers. Dr. Caban-Martinez stated: “Immigrant families often take on physically demanding, low-wage, and hazardous jobs when entering our country, a time when we can apply evidence-based interventions at the worksite to prevent and reduce the burden of musculoskeletal disorders they experience.” Dr. Caban-Martinez continues to expand upon this passion through a K01 grant from NIAMS that supports a study called “Musculoskeletal Study of Construction Workers’ Longitudinal Exposures”, or MUSCLE for short.
Dr. Alberto Caban-Martinez’s interdisciplinary programs of research and diverse personal background exemplify both the scope of epidemiological research and the multicultural nature of the field. His example serves to reiterate the point that epidemiologists of all levels should incessantly strive to network with fellow researchers, experience fields of research outside of their own, and foster a professional culture that encourages and welcomes researchers from all backgrounds into the field. You never know who you will meet or what experience can be shared that will enrich your own field of research and advance the field of epidemiology to new heights.