Dr. Dominick P. Purpura (April 2, 1927 – May 16, 2019) was a world-renowned neuroscientist and the longest-serving dean of any medical school in the United States. He was dean of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University from 1984 until 2006 and holds the additional title of vice president for medical affairs at the University.
A member of the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine, Dr. Purpura was internationally known for studies in mental retardation that demonstrated the primary involvement of certain structural abnormalities of nerve cells in the brain. Also widely recognized for work on the origin of brain waves, developmental neurobiology and the mechanism of epilepsy, he was one of two scientists in the nation to receive the first annual National Medical Research Award of the National Health Council at a White House ceremony in September, 1988. In 1993, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Research from the American Epilepsy Society, and in 1996, the Society of Neuroscience presented him with its Presidential Award.
In 2001, Dr. Purpura received New York City’s highest scientific honor, the Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Medical and Biological Sciences. He was a past president of both the (U.S.) Society for Neuroscience and the International Brain Research Organization and served for more than 25 years as chief editor of Brain Research, a major international scientific journal.
Dr. Purpura’s scientific and administrative leadership have had a major impact on the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, which he joined in 1967 as chairman of the department of anatomy. He had served the school since then, with the exception of two years spent as dean of Stanford University Medical School (1982-84).
In 1969, he was named scientific director of Einstein’s Rose F. Kennedy Center for Research in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, and in 1972 he was appointed the Center’s director. In 1974 he founded and was named chairman of a new department of neuroscience at the medical school. Under Dr. Purpura’s direction, Einstein’s Kennedy Center and neuroscience department achieved international renown for pioneering interdisciplinary research in the brain sciences.
As Dean during a period of dramatic realignments in healthcare, he positioned Einstein as the educational hub of a network that includes five teaching hospitals in New York: Montefiore Medical Center, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, Beth Israel Medical Center, Jacobi Medical Center and Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center.
Before joining Einstein, Dr. Purpura served for 10 years on the faculty of Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. He earned his AB degree from Columbia University in 1949 and his MD, magna cum laude, from Harvard Medical School in 1953. Dr. Purpura authored some 200 scientific papers and chapters during his distinguished career. His standing as a scientist as well as a major academic figure thrust him into leading roles in numerous educational, social, health and scientific organizations.