Marcia J. Dunn, M.D. '82

Marcia J. Dunn, M.D. '82

This interview is dated 3/28/17. 

When Marcia Dunn, M.D. ‘82 was a student at Brown, the majority of her professors were male. As a semiotics concentrator and pre-med student, Dr. Dunn sought mentors to guide her experience at Brown, from advisors to fellow students to her mother. Since graduating, Dr. Dunn has recognized a strong advocacy of women through President Christina Paxson’s leadership, whom she credits as the “quintessential leader.” The University, she believes, continues to encourage women to excel in all aspects in life. Dr. Dunn has given back to Brown in several ways. As an active University volunteer, Dr. Dunn is also a member of the Women’s Leadership Council, the President’s Advisory Council on Internships,  and the Women’s Launch Pad mentoring program, a community she views as unique, special, and unparalleled. Dr. Dunn hopes that the Conference is a celebration of past and present women at Brown, one that is equal parts unforgettable and inspiring. “I hope the Conference will motivate women to be leaders,” she says. “I know the Conference will inspire conversation, interaction, and lead to a more connected community of Brown women.”



What does leadership mean to you and how do you feel Brown is encouraging the next generation of women leaders?

As a great American leader once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” The Women’s Leadership Council (WLC), through its programming, mentoring, and philanthropy encourages all Brown women to become leaders. The WLC’s Women’s Launch Pad (WLP) program has offered mentoring to female students in a way not previously available to them. It is important that Brown University empowers women. We are celebrating 125 years of women at Brown this spring. In addition to leading the way in matriculating women, Brown continues to encourage women to excel in all aspects of life.

Did you have any mentors while you were a student at Brown? Why is mentoring important?

I did have many mentors at Brown, some women. As a semiotics concentrator and pre-med, however, most of my faculty mentors were male. I did have amazing advisors throughout and appreciate the mentorship I was given. My roommate, who encouraged me to go to Florida to canvas for the ERA, and my mom, a high school English teacher at an inner-city school, were also my mentors.  It is wise to find mentors of all types. I did have many female mentors in my medical training. As studies have shown, being a mentor is beneficial for the advisor as well as for the advisee. It’s also a way of giving back and to be involved with Brown. By mentoring with the WLP, I have become much more aware of its importance and now actively seek out opportunities to mentor or connect mentors to mentees in my professional and personal life. 

Is there anyone in the Brown community who inspires you to be a leader and a mentor to the next generation of students?

Absolutely. President Christina Paxson inspires me with her strong leadership of Brown. She is the quintessential leader and has so positively impacted the programs and culture of Brown by her ambitious striving for excellence. From Building on Distinction, her strategic plan, to BrownConnect, Integrative Scholarships, the Diversity and Inclusion action plan, increasing endowed chairs, and promoting financial aid for middle income students, she has developed programs to assure quality and success while maintaining Brown’s culture and uniqueness. We are fortunate to have President Paxson as a leader and as a role model.  I know she has inspired me, many WLC members, and the Brown community in general. I also appreciate that President Paxson has placed so many women in senior positions at Brown, including Dean Maud Mandel, Dean Terrie Fox Wetle, Karen Sibley, Amanda Lynch, Barbara Chernow, and Patricia Watson. I think this strong advocacy of women should be recognized and celebrated. 

What is your favorite part of being a member of the WLC? How has being a member of the WLC positively impacted your professional life? How has it impacted your relationship with the Brown community?

I love that the WLC has brought me closer to Brown and the Brown community. I have worked in different areas of the alumni network, including BASC, the BAFLC, and the Council on Internships, and I have met friends, mentors, and connected with the Brown community through all of them. But, I have to say that the community of the WLC is unparalleled. It is more like a family and that is unique and special.

Why is Brown a philanthropic priority for you?

Brown is a philanthropic priority because I believe my college experience shaped my life. For me, giving to Brown helps ensure that others will benefit from the unique and innovative experience of a Brown education. My philanthropic connections to Brown and medicine are paramount and resonate the most for me.  I am also involved with some arts and theater organizations, and I love it when I can make connections across my philanthropic interests.  For example, there have been times when we have coordinated a Brown student internship at one of my arts or medical organizations, or we have organized a group to see a Brown playwright’s show.  I find those connections very positive and powerful.

You are co-chair of the 125 Years of Women at Brown Conference in May. What are some of your goals for the conference?

My goal for the Conference is the celebration of women at Brown, past and present. It has been a pleasure to work on this conference with a fantastic co-chair, Nancy Neff. The Conference will be engaging, educational, and motivating for Brown women. It will be unforgettable, with an amazing list of keynote speakers, from Janet Yellen and Maggie Hassan to Lynn Nottage; with entertainers such as Mary Chapin Carpenter; panel;, tours; a flash mob; and, a service project. I hope everyone walks away with new friends, fresh ideas and aspirations, and special Brown memories. 

What do you hope to see for the community following the celebration of 125 Years of Women at Brown?

I hope that the Conference will motivate women to be leaders, to get involved in mentoring and to be philanthropic. I know the conference will inspire conversation, interaction, and lead to a more connected community of Brown women.