Beginning in 1983, the first prize award in the Student Paper Competition became known as the Martin Epstein Award. It was named after a beloved scientist and friend of the informatics community who directed the Medical Computer Science Research Group of the Lister Hill Center at the National Library of Medicine. He died in early 1983 after a battle with lymphoma and his colleagues and family wanted him to be remembered not only for his professional accomplishments but for his love and support for students.
Dr. Epstein joined the NLM in 1980 but had been a member of the Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps since 1964. His initial assignment was at NIH, but he subsequently spent time in a PHS Traineeship at the University of California in San Francisco and Berkeley. He also spent two years as a visiting scientist at SRI International in Menlo Park, California and enrolled in the doctoral program in Medical Information Sciences at UCSF, receiving his PhD in 1980. Immediately recruited to NLM, he then took on the transformation of the research computing facilities and programs there – a project that was still underway when he took ill in mid-1982 and passed away in early 1983. One of his close colleagues, Donald E. Walker of SRI, accurately said of Dr. Epstein: “One of his most distinctive characteristics was his selflessness, his willingness to help everyone. Another was his rigor, his insistence on personally knowing everything about an area before taking a position. His knowledge of medicine was impressive; taken in conjunction with his familiarity with computer science and his mastery of the current literature in so many areas, his ability to assimilate was remarkable. It was a privilege to know him.”
It was accordingly fitting that this young individual who was an early trailblazer in informatics should be honored and remembered by associating his name with the top award in the Student Paper Competition.