Marjorie Robinson, PharmD, Resident Alumna : A pharmacist fighting infectious diseases
Service to others comes naturally to Marjorie Robinson; it was modeled by her family from her earliest days.
Growing up in Jamaica, she watched as her pharmacist father provided care to the underserved and her mother volunteered in local orphanages. “My parents had a passion for serving the community,” she says, “and they passed that on to me and my brother, Vernon.”
“I knew that pharmacists could play a key role in fighting infectious diseases, including HIV.”
Today, Vernon runs the family’s retail pharmacy, which has served the same community in Kingston for 75 years. And Robinson visits Jamaica frequently to help at health fairs in impoverished areas and to consult with the government on HIV education. Her reach, however, has extended far outside her hometown – to New York, San Francisco, Florida, South Africa, and beyond.
Keeping up with thoroughbreds
After doing pharmacy training in Jamaica, Robinson earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy at St. John’s University in New York City and then a doctorate in pharmacy at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Long interested in helping HIV patients, she next set her sights on “the epicenter” of work on HIV/AIDS – San Francisco General Hospital, now Zuckerberg San Francisco General.
“I knew that pharmacists could play a key role in infectious diseases, including the HIV epidemic,” Robinson says. She was selected for an infectious diseases (ID) residency at UCSF. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, resident alumnus, now dean of the School of Pharmacy, was among her influential mentors and became a lifelong friend.
“I knew I was running with thoroughbreds at UCSF,” she says. “As the only ID resident more than 20 years ago, I was just a pony. But you learn very quickly to be scientifically accurate and develop your strides and do the kind of thinking that gets you to innovative answers.”
Robinson wanted to help improve pharmacy training, using UCSF’s program as an example. She became a professor at Nova, where she worked to advance the curriculum, a role she also took on at her alma mater in Jamaica.
“It was important to me to help standardize the curriculum across borders,” she says. “My UCSF education helped me improve pharmacy training in South Florida and throughout the Caribbean.” After several years in academia, she moved into the pharmaceutical industry to work on clinical trials for HIV and hepatitis C therapies and to facilitate physician education.
“At UCSF, I learned that my thoughts and ideas had value, that I did not need to conform to the usual boundaries,” she says. “That strength has influenced how I approach everything.”