An Eye for Success
Brian Marr, M.D. ’91
From an early age, thanks to the influence of his mother, a biology teacher, Brian Marr, M.D. ’91 knew two things: he was destined to go to medical school and he never wanted to be bored. Marr has succeeded on both fronts.
As an ophthalmic oncologist, Marr is one of just a handful of experts trained in all aspects of eye cancer. Renowned in his field, his patients come from all over the world to seek treatment from the New York-based physician. Today, fear of being bored is the least of Marr’s problems. In a typical week, he spends two days operating and two and a half days seeing clinical patients.
Marr’s route to ophthalmic oncology was not a clear one. It took him much trial and error to find his particular niche. In fact, he says, “it chose me; I didn’t really choose it. And, I’ve enjoyed it ever since.” As a med student, Marr asked himself, “What are the hardest things to get into?” Ophthalmology seemed to be the answer. At the time, Lasik eye surgery was up-and-coming and Marr trained at New York Eye and Ear, where Lasik was developed. He gained much experience in the field but soon found himself bored. He wanted more.
Marr found his next adventure at an academic meeting when he found himself seated next to Jerry Shields, one of the fathers of ocular oncology, who had one of the biggest practices in the world. Shields eventually offered Marr a fellowship. That led to a nearly decade-long career with Wills Eye Hospital, one of the biggest ocular oncology sites in the country. Marr was eventually recruited to Memorial Sloan Kettering, where he spent a decade, and now works in Columbia University’s oncology department.
Looking back on his successful career, Marr is grateful for the strong foundation and opportunities that Albright provided him. “I had a mentor named Susan Munch (associate professor emerita) who was awesome and a great professor. I was able to do really well at Albright. It gave me a sense of accomplishment.”
– Jenna R. Paiano ’18
Encouraging Difference; Embracing Oneself
Tiaisha Dandy ’11
Sent to the principal’s office for her emotional outbursts during school, shy, fun-loving Cree struggled to cope with her emotions and make friends. But when a school counselor offered help and support, Cree started to understand her feelings and embrace who she is.
Cree is a character in a new children’s book, Cree Wins the Day, by Tiaisha Dandy ’11 and co-author Lora Bynum. The book is aimed at encouraging children to reach out to someone—a guardian, family member, teacher or counselor—in times of uncertainty, and to talk about feelings and emotions, in order to face their challenges.
“Being different doesn’t mean that you are different. Having a difference doesn’t ruin your ability to be great,” Dandy says. “We want children to know that it’s okay. Battling something that you don’t understand is not a negative thing, it just means that there’s a little bit more adversity to push forward, and adversity gives you strength.”
A psychology and communications co-major with a passion for working with children, Dandy and her co-author began discussing ways to tackle mental health issues and youth in the winter of 2016.
They first set out to research existing children’s books that deal with topics associated with mental health issues and disabilities. Finding few options, they knew they were on the right track and set about creating their main character.
Prior to attending Bryn Mawr College, where she earned a master of social service and a master of law and social policy, Dandy served as director of To Our Children’s Future with Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of Philadelphia youth. Having worked with at-risk children, Dandy says, “Cree is a reflection of the youth served in the program, many of them struggling with their own issues academically, emotionally, and personally, and ignored or taken for granted.”
Like Cree’s supportive counselor in the book, Theresa Gilliams, Ph.D., professor of English at Albright, has been a mentor to Dandy since 2005. “She is a big influence in my life,” says Dandy. “I consult with her before any major move. She’s watched me grow from a college student to a professional. I simply love her.”
On the back cover of Dandy’s book, Gilliams writes, “I love the focus on difference, particularly disability, as something to be celebrated and articulated rather than shunned or ignored. The most impactful aspect of Cree’s expressions, in my opinion, is her comfort with herself and knowledge of the various emotions that inform her thinking and longings.”
Dandy currently works as a program analyst for the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services in Philadelphia. Cree Wins the Day can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
– Jenna Paiano ’18
In Her Own Backyard
Hilary (Herbein) Murdoch ’16
Hanging out at the Campus Center’s bowling alley, playing pool and munching on burgers and fries at “The Sub” (now Jake’s Place), a young Hilary (Herbein) Murdoch ’16 and her friends knew the Albright campus as a fun place to explore. “Albright was home,” says Murdoch.
Yet growing up a few blocks away also allowed for some temptations. “I was in ninth grade when I attended my first Albright sorority party,” says Murdoch, whose mom, Susan (Palm) Murdoch ’64, and sister, class of ’87, also attended Albright. In spite of the family connections, Murdoch did not consider applying to Albright. “When I was ready to go to college, I was too adventurous to stay in my backyard,” she says.
Searching to satisfy her independent spirit, Murdoch spent the next few decades attending six colleges and changing her major four times; working as a waitress, florist, dental lab technician, jewelry designer, manager of a mini-mart and laboring in a battery factory. “Life is hard,” she says of her roller coaster ride through adulthood.
Even after she married, bought a home and settled into her 20-year career as a multi-media director at an investment firm in the Philadelphia suburbs, Murdoch’s eclectic spirit prevailed. “I started a paranormal research group, went on fossil excavations in several states, dug up dinosaur bones in Montana, and searched for the graves of Irish railroad workers who died of cholera in the 1830s,” she says.
Then, she returned “home” and found what she had been looking for all along right in her backyard. She enrolled in Albright’s School of Professional Studies (SPS) for a degree in psychology.
The program was a good fit for Murdoch. “My varied life experiences helps me notice and analyze people’s behavior,” she says. When selecting the subject of her capstone research project, she delved into her childhood for her topic – sibling rivalry. “I believe what happens in life guides you,” she says. “My mom, a science teacher, was competitive. The over-achieving environment was not best to foster a good sibling relationship.” Her mom passed away when Murdoch was 19 years-old. At that time, she says her relationship with her sibling became rocky.
As an SPS student, Murdoch was invited to present her research, “Sibling Rivalry: Considerations of Gender and Life Stage,” at the 125th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C. Her research was featured on livescience.com, Yahoo News, Huffington Post, and several online news outlets.
Ready for her next adventure, Murdoch, 49, is pursuing a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling at Immaculata University