By Shedeiky Hamilton
Three children, a divorce, and the struggle to succeed. Battling most of the basic problems of life, one of Mercy’s professors focused to make a difference in the lives of many.
Dr. Natalie Bronstein, a “product” of Bronx, was blessed to have a stable and secure home. She attended the Moshulu Parkway Junior High School, later with a love of the arts attended the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan. Bronstein later graduated from Lehman College in 1968 with a major in art and minor in education.
“I started teaching in 1968 in a school in South Bronx. I taught social studies and Spanish. I used my college Spanish, which was horrible, but it got me by,” she joked.
Bronstein later married and had three children. She decided to leave teaching to become a stay at home mom.
“Thirty-one years ago, I went on maturity leave from the New York City Department of Education and I never went back,” she added.
Spending a lot of time at home with her children, Bronstein had a different outlook at life and felt that she needed a change in profession. She reminisced on her love for biology classes back in college, which aided in her love for the beauty of life.
“When I looked through the microscope, I saw the artistic side of me that made me realize that biology would be the perfect career for me.”
With this in mind, divorced and facing the challenges of being a single mother, Bronstein enrolled in Western Connecticut State University and took all the science and math courses that were available to her. She already had acquired a master’s in education and took undergraduate and graduate courses, receiving a second masters in oceanography and limnology.
But she wanted more.
Bronstein worked in the industry cloning the Herpes Simplex Virus, which includes two proteins for the production of an anti-herpes vaccine that was effective in basic trials but was never shelved.
“The industry was more concerned about the dollars and making money, but I saw myself as a teacher and an academic, helping people change their lives. I wanted to make a difference.”
In 1993, Bronstein was accepted in a PhD program at New York Medical College. During this time she became an adjunct faculty member of Mercy College in biology while also pursuing a Phd in the department of cell biology and anatomy. In 2000, she received a PhD focusing her research on molecular genetics of limb development.
“I have been a full time at Mercy for 10 years now. My number one priority is my students and I ensure that they make the right choices and choose the best opportunity for graduate school,” she said. “It is their success that is my success. Every student who gets into graduate school or gets a job makes me feel like a success.”
A professor of genetics, microbiology, biology 1 and 2, Bronstein believes that nurturing her students is a major role in helping them to become successful. One important criterion is to impart knowledge and help students with difficult decisions about their future.
“I try to tell my students that it’s never too late to get an education. As long as you want to achieve you’ll be successful.”
This dedicated professor, filled with the love for science and nature, has now embraced the world through her students and gives praise to that defining moment which changed her life forever.
“It was a struggle going to school and taking care of my children. But years later, now that my children are older, I believe that they have respect for the path I chose. I did all my studies as a nontraditional graduate student going to school in my thirties,” she said. “Because of that, I can now relate to our student population problems and be their advocate in encouraging them not to give up.”
a number of students here at Mercy are experiencing the same problems that Bronstein had when she was also in college. There are students who are married, others getting divorced, while many are the caregivers for their children who are also currently in school.
Bronstein added, “Sacrifices will have to be made and if students want to achieve. They cannot give up. Obstacles will come in their path, but as long as students remain focused then they will reap the benefits of success.”
The task of motivating students to reach the highest level in education is a duty that Bronstein is accepting. Pursuing a degree in any science field is not an easy task, but Bronstein ensures that her students acquire effective knowledge that will lay the foundation for graduate school and also for a job in the medical field.
“A lot of people are afraid to take science courses because they have to commit and have the passion of helping others. Not everyone likes commitments, but science opens a door to have a secure job because nurses and doctors are always needed.”
However, to get to that level, students have to be focused on their dreams.
“This profession does not take only three years to cover. The human body has many defining characteristics that doctors have to know inside out. That’s my job here as a professor, to concretely build a foundation for my later successors.”
Over a year ago, Bronstein went to the Gordon Conference where she presented research that she completed with her Mercy students from which she received positive feedbacks. She is currently working with a scientist in England, on vertebrate, limb, heart and brain development where they use chicken embryos.
All Bronstein’s children are currently studying graduate courses at prominent colleges across Westchester. Her struggle to be a successful parent has definitely played a role in their will to accomplish their dreams.
Despite the hardship that she had to endure to reap the benefits of success now, Bronstein’s impact and legacy is the success of her students. She believes that her students are a fundamental part of her daily life because she is now able to contribute to the future of others.
“Getting a call from a student, telling me that she just graduated from medical school or he got a job as a doctor in a local hospital, is all the reward that I could have asked for