Marc Rosenblum, M.D. ’79, finds fulfillment in guiding treatments for the rarest brain and spinal cord tumors
By Karen Doss Bowman
Photography by Peter Freed
hen pathologists at cancer centers worldwide get stuck trying to identify brain or spinal cord tumors, Marc K. Rosenblum, M.D. ’79, is the expert many turn to for help.
As the sole neuropathologist at the busy Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York for many years, Dr. Rosenblum was involved in the diagnostic work for all brain and spinal cord tumors. Whenever he came across unusual lesions that didn’t fit into known classifications, he collected and stored a sample, analyzing their molecular genetic makeup and morphologic attributes as technology evolved. Dr. Rosenblum’s extensive body of work characterizing these novel lesions is now in the World Health Organization (WHO) Classification of Tumors of the Nervous System.
“When I began my career in the early 1980s, I couldn’t have dreamed of the techniques we now use to characterize brain or other tumors,” said Dr. Rosenblum, who returned to the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine earlier in the year to become the 2020 recipient of the Medical Alumni Association’s Hall of Fame Award, which honors alumni for their contributions to medicine and society as a whole. “To succeed in medicine, you constantly have to keep learning. There is not a day when I don’t face a new diagnostic problem. That is invigorating and keeps my mind young.”
Dr. Rosenblum is the author of more than 250 peer-reviewed publications, 40 invited book chapters, and a textbook on the pathology of nervous system neoplasms. After graduating with a medical degree from the Miller School, he completed his residency in anatomic pathology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and several fellowships in oncologic surgical pathology and cytology at MSKCC. Sloan Kettering sponsored his neuropathology training in neuropathology at the New York University-Bellevue Medical Center in New York.
Marc K. Rosenblum, M.D. ’79
An inspired career choice
During medical school, Dr. Rosenblum recalls facing the “terrifying reality” that he wasn’t excited about the idea of working hands-on with patients — even though his father was a physician who “extolled medicine as a noble calling,” Rosenblum said. He credits his pathology instructors at the University of Miami with inspiring his career choice and taking time to mentor him in the lab.
“What I saw pathologists do — just looking at a piece of tissue on a glass slide under the microscope and making a very specific announcement about exactly what was wrong with the patient — was something that was almost magical,” Dr. Rosenblum said. “I was drawn to the drama, the mystery, romance — whatever you want to call it — of being able to make that pronouncement.
“There was the realization that this determination was the linchpin for medical practice,” he added. “You’re guiding the hands of the surgeon, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist who will make treatment decisions for this patient.”
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