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Kids Kicking Cancer Names KCI Member Martin Bluth, M.D., Ph.D., National Medical Director

Martin Bluth, M.D., Ph.D., director of translational research in the Department of Pathology and professor of pathology at Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine, has been named national medical director of Kids Kicking Cancer, a Detroit-based nonprofit that provides free martial arts training as a method of pain management to children, teens and young adults battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Black-belt instructors teach patients and siblings physical and spiritual principles of martial arts, including deep breathing techniques and meditation. They also accompany students to difficult medical procedures.

Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg made the appointment earlier this year. Goldberg is the founder of Kids Kicking Cancer and an assistant clinical professor in WSU’s Department of Pediatrics. The open-ended position is voluntary and was created to help propel Kids Kicking Cancer into other clinical enterprises, or markets, by substantiating the methodology’s positive effect on overall health, Goldberg said.

“He wants to take our numbers and apply rigorous standards so they’re publishable, and create other evaluation standards, especially on a procedural level,” Goldberg said. “In order to sustain the organization and grow it effectively, having a doctor of Dr. Bluth’s caliber is very important to us.”

Dr. Bluth is creating the framework for expanding the KKC program into new areas such as sickle cell anemia, asthma and obesity. “At its core, Kids Kicking Cancer is an empowerment program where the children realize the power, strength and resiliency that they all have within them. They realize that, in many cases, pain is a choice, and they take on, actively, the power to choose to not adhere to the pain. Imbued in this is an aspect that the children teach others also,” he said. “They’re at peace. And that’s where the tagline, ‘power, peace, purpose’ embodies the mission of the organization. You empower yourself and everyone around you.”

Dr. Bluth also serves as associate director of Transfusion Service at Harper University Hospital in Detroit. A mainstay of his daily routine is transfusion support. His team supplies all blood for the Sickle Cell Center at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, which also sees patients with hematological as well as other disorders.

Since Dr. Bluth’s appointment, Kids Kicking Cancer has begun planning implementation into the Children’s Hospital program. He will now look at output measures.

“Will there be less transfusion support required if (Kids Kicking Cancer) is able to keep them at a healthier state longer?” he asked. That’s one of the many factors he plans to quantify.

Dr. Bluth’s new role also allows the nonprofit to pursue more conventional funding from entities such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute among other venues. The organization is funded mainly by philanthropy, and needs to build local private and corporate partnerships, like those already established with WSU and the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Auxiliary, Goldberg said.

He founded Kids Kicking Cancer in 1999. It’s now a global program with offices and classes in Michigan, California, Canada, Israel and Italy. He lost his daughter to cancer in 1983, and later taught martial arts at a New York-based summer camp for children with the disease. There, he witnessed the struggles of a child about to undergo a procedure, and intervened. “Give me five minutes with this boy,” he heard himself say. “I’m a black belt. Do you want me to teach you some karate?”

Twenty minutes later, the nurse pulled out the needle from the boy’s chemo port. “Did you do it yet?” he asked. Kids Kicking Cancer was born.

“If a child is afraid or angry, you can see the level of pain goes up exponentially,” Goldberg said. “Allowing the children to have a sense of purpose is part of pain management.”

Like the majority of the Kids Kicking Cancer staff, Dr. Bluth, a Shotokan black belt, has an extensive background in martial arts, including Tai Chi and Chi Gung. He heard Goldberg speak about Kids Kicking Cancer at a Grand Rounds lecture more than a year ago.

“Over the last year I reassessed it for the unbiased affects that it can have on children with cancer. I tried to import some of the mission statement into my own personal life and practice, and was really moved at how powerful it was. If you take the absolutism of something, and you take out the emotion of it, and it still stands, then you’ve got something,” Dr. Bluth said. “It works with such remarkable impact. That’s what clinched it for me. It stands on its own two feet in a pure way.”

For more information on Kids Kicking Cancer, visit

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