THE CONTINUITY OF GRATITUDE
Ronen Marmur ’90, MD, PhD, FACR grew up on a farm in Israel.
He figured he would be a farmer himself someday. After spending four years in the Israeli military, he took the skills he acquired, and with no solid plans of what he might do next, moved to New York and found his way to Purchase. He’s now a highly regarded board-certified rheumatologist practicing at Caremount Medical Group in Mount Kisco, NY. He credits the exploratory nature of the Purchase culture as a key to his success.
With a natural curiosity, Dr. Marmur was a good student in high school, although he never took academics too seriously. His interests gravitated toward the humanities. Once, he even argued with his biology teacher about the necessity of studying the subject.
His military training shifted his perspective. “It was very difficult training, but it gave me a sense of cohesion and accomplishment. It gave me confidence that I could do things,” he says. Alongside his future wife, who enrolled in the graphic design program here, he chose to study psychology at Purchase and thought he might become a psychologist.
The Road to Medical School
Once he began to study behavioral psychology with Ronnie Halperin, associate professor emerita of psychology, his interest in biology blossomed. “It was a good match from day one. I felt very engaged and interested and interacted well with the professors. I liked the whole atmosphere and the approach, so it worked very well for me.” He did his senior project on reward mechanisms related to eating, which led to an interest in neuroscience.
With the help and encouragement of the late Professor Emeritus of Biology Curtis Williams and Joe Skrivanek, distinguished service professor of chemistry, Dr. Marmur landed a job as a lab technician at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He conducted research on the brain’s reward mechanism and the biology of cocaine addiction. With further convincing, he applied to Einstein’s MD/PhD program and was accepted with complete funding through a stipend. “It was a great surprise that I could make it into this kind of program,” he recalls.
His research interests moved to stem cells, then to the mechanics of brain development, and eventually to immunology. He completed his internship and residency through Weill Cornell Medicine and then a fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery’s rheumatology department. He also conducted a research fellowship at Rockefeller University investigating a rare autoimmune brain disease.
At the end of his studies, it became clear that he most enjoyed clinical work. “I like to interact with patients. I thought I would be happier in clinical practice.” He joined Mount Kisco Medical Group, now Caremount, where he’s practiced since 2004.
A Grateful Turn
Dr. Marmur doubts he would have become a medical doctor had it not been for Purchase. “It gave me the opportunity to embark on a path that I’m not sure I would have followed if I were not at Purchase,” he says. He worked as a lab tech and received work-study grants and other scholarships that made his education affordable.
Grateful for the foundation Purchase provided and the support he received along the way, Dr. Marmur now contributes to the Bridges to Baccalaureate program, where underrepresented community college students studying the sciences participate in an intensive summer research program on campus, including professional development workshops, individual advising, networking events, and original science research under the supervision of a faculty member.
He describes his path to becoming an MD as a non-traditional route, and he’d like to help others like him. “Purchase allows you to combine different life experiences, to help you enter into areas it would be very hard to go otherwise,” he says. “I can identify with these young people. They’re trying to find a place, to find direction using Purchase culture to find their way in life.”
Continuity of Opportunity
Dr. Marmur regards his generosity as establishing continuity. “I’m gratified and feel accomplished and satisfied from how my life progressed, and I want to make sure that younger people have the same shot,” he says. “If you forgot where you came from, you don’t know where you’re going. It’s trying to pay tribute and respect to all of the things that helped get me to where I am today.”
Dr. Marmur established The Ronnie Halperin Bridges to Baccalaureate Summer Research Program Award in honor of his mentor.