December 19, 2008

Marney’s retirement ending long, ‘unintended’ career

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Sam Marney Jr., M.D., here with longtime patient Rebecca Raskin, is retiring from Vanderbilt after more than 40 years of service. (photo by Mary Donaldson)

Marney’s retirement ending long, ‘unintended’ career

The founder of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Vanderbilt, Samuel Marney Jr., M.D., associate professor of Medicine, is retiring from Vanderbilt after more than 40 years.

Marney said he is deeply proud of the fellows he has trained and worked with over the years in what he says is one of the longest “unintended” careers at Vanderbilt.

Marney began as an intern at Vanderbilt in 1960, left for the U.S. Air Force for a couple of years, then returned to serve as chief resident at the Veterans Administration Hospital. He spent a year in Oxford as a Hematology fellow before training in immunology with Roger M. Des Prez, M.D., chief of Medicine at the V.A. in 1968.

“At that time, the chair was worried because the allergy clinic gave allergy shots throughout the week, but there were only a couple of half-time allergists present,” recalled Marney. “I was dragged kicking and screaming into allergy when I was sent by the chair of medicine to babysit the allergy clinic in 1968.”

Before long, Marney realized it was a good fit. He requested to be sent to the Scripps Research Foundation for training and returned to Vanderbilt in 1974 a board certified allergist to lead the first Division of Allergy and Immunology.

Rebecca Raskin, 87, is one of his first — and last — patients. She said Marney absolutely made the right choice of career.

“He had a way about him. He was always sweet and thoughtful. He got to know me and made a point to ask me about my children. We're to the point now where he calls me Bec and I call him Sam,” Raskin said.

A specialist in severe allergic reaction, Marney had a knack for finding solutions for patients with terrible allergies. And less severely allergic patients, like Raskin, found his regimen of medication and avoidance allowed them to live more symptom-free lives.

“That's one of the things I always enjoyed about allergy,” Marney said. “You can have an impact on people's lives, and sometimes the answer was as simple as giving patients the knowledge of what to avoid and how to avoid it.”

But Marney also had a knack for bringing young physicians along. He gradually built the Allergy and Immunology fellowship program into one of the strongest in the country.

“By 1988 we had added John Murray and Bill Serafin. We thought we were really cooking when there were three of us,” Marney said.

Current director of the Allergy, Sinus and Asthma Prevention program (ASAP), David Hagaman, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine, was a fellow of Marney's in 1993-94.

“He has been a rock for all of the young physicians. He gave us direction and career advice, but it was his example that was most valuable,” Hagaman said.

“His bedside manner is so good. For the fellows to see how he treats every patient, no matter who they are or what their background, is so important. What he modeled in our training lasts forever.”

Through the fellowship training program, Marney's career once again found him rather than the other way around.

“I kept convincing a number of others to lead the fellowship training program over the years, but eventually I always took it over again. I guess the thing I enjoy the most is working with fellows in clinic,” Marney said.

Marney turned administration of the training program over in 1999 to Stokes Peebles, M.D., and then to Hagaman, who is the current director. But Hagaman says Marney remains the primary clinical trainer with the fellows at ASAP.

He completes that work and sees his final patients by Dec. 31.

Marney said he and his wife, a local lawyer who is retiring as well, plan to dote on their three grandchildren and travel.