Dr. Martin J. Hessner ‘85
2015 Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Achievement
Dr. Martin J. Hessner ‘85 has pioneered research leading to earlier diagnosis of type-1 diabetes.
As director of the Max McGee National Research Center for Diabetes, he has established a rich, collaborative environment for clinicians, immunologists, molecular biologists and statisticians, providing opportunity for important discoveries. He began his role as director at the center, which is associated with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, in 2008.
The Diabetes Clinic at Children's Hospital is one of the largest in the country, serving more than 1,700 children with type 1 and type 2 diabetes and their families. It was established by the late football legend Max McGee and his wife Denise. Research studies in the center have been funded by Children's Research Institute, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, American Diabetes Foundation and Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Initiative at The Medical College of Wisconsin.
The main focus of the Hessner Laboratory has been to apply functional genomics to type-1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that results in destruction of the pancreatic beta cells and life- long dependency on exogenous insulin. Dr. Hessner’s goal is to identify early inflammatory markers of type-1 diabetes.
Additionally, he is a tenured professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he began work in 2001, and specializes in molecular genetics. His work and that of his team have been instrumental in research and advancements of type-1 diabetes there.
The author of more than 60 peer reviewed journal articles, Dr. Hessner has had a successful track record procuring extramural research funding, including current grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Recently funded research, in which Dr. Hessner is the primary investigator, is studying the development of diabetes and possible therapies. Studies involve a test Hessner’s team developed that appears to be an early predictor of type-1 diabetes. The test may be able to detect juvenile diabetes as much as five years before the onset of symptoms.
He has shared his work as an invited speaker in recent years at the Ninth Annual Rachmiel Levine Diabetes and Obesity Symposium, the Tenth International Congress of the Immunology of Diabetes Society, and the American Diabetes Association's 70th Annual Meeting. Dr. Hessner was also the guest speaker at the 2009 and 2012 Summer Garden Party to benefit JDRF where he explained his current diabetes research projects to the guests. He served as keynote speaker at a JDRF Annual Meeting with a speech titled: “Type 1 Diabetes Research at the Max McGee national Research Center for Juvenile Diabetes.” He was the speaker at the World Diabetes Day Research Update in November 2013.
Dr. Hessner received his Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1985 and went on to receive his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Micro/Molecular Biology and did Post-
Doctoral studies at the Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin and continued directing a laboratory focused on clinical molecular diagnostic assay development and clinical research.
At Carroll, Dr. Hessner was a member of the Wind Symphony, Delta Rho Upsilon fraternity and the Tri-beta biology honor society. He married Sue (Kaufman) Hessner, a 1985 Carroll graduate. Dr. Hessner’s brothers, Karl ‘88, Erich, and Anton ’88, also attended Carroll.