|Mary Jo Robinson, DO, an SOM assistant professor of pathology, is chair of the American Board of Osteopathic Pathology and co-course director for second year students studying pathology. What feeds her passion for her specialty is “the ability to make a difference in the treatment of a patient. Medicine is an ever-changing field with treatments available that were undreamed of even in the eighties. This change is so exciting. I continue to learn as I teach.” Meanwhile, Robinson remembers, “I went to med school from 1983 to 1987. Back then, there were minimal accommodations available for students with disabilities. I could only sit in the front to lip read. No sign language or interpreters.”
An alumna of New York University with a master’s degree in library science from
Queens College and on her way to becoming a psychiatrist, she is legally blind because of a
congenital condition called nystagmus that causes involuntary, rapid eyeball movement. This remarkable
28-year-old considers her impairment an asset, not her biggest challenge. Being visually challenged has shaped her personality, persistently driving her to see the world using all of her senses. Though passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allowed her extra time for taking tests, she didn’t really need that
accommodation. In fact, her ability to listen intently put her in front of the competition. And at SOM, she discovered a teacher who understood disabilities intimately.
My Degree: Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine in the School of Osteopathic Medicine’s Class of 2006. I just started a residency in psychiatry at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, and I am interested in geriatric psychiatry because of the unique challenges patients face as they age.
Why Medicine: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed science and after college, I worked in patient education at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Dealing with cancer patients
reinforced my interest in the psychiatric effects of a physical disease.
How UMDNJ Helped: Advances in SOM computer labs and libraries are available to support students with disabilities. Software and technology make it possible to magnify the printed page or a scanned version of class notes. I also wear telescopic magnifying glasses, named “Gordy” after the Star Trek character Geordi La Forge who needed special eye gear to correct his blindness.
Unforgettable Patient: A woman in intensive care with cardiac problems. Vital signs didn’t fully explain her condition because she was also addicted to cocaine. As I evaluated her, I began
to see a woman who had lost 10 years of her life to this addiction, who had lived only for a drug that impacted everything. By providing treatment, getting her into rehabilitation, monitoring her withdrawal from the cocaine and then following up, we had an immense influence on her future. We gave her tools to recover.
Research Interest: Obesity is a hot topic and people see surgery as a quick fix. I worked on a study that examined the characteristics of patients being evaluated for bariatric gastric bypass
surgery and looked for psychological predictors of their outcomes. This interested me because
obesity affects so many Americans and has such a mind-body connection.
Why UMDNJ: Because the University offered exposure to both urban and suburban
populations. I believe in giving back to the community, a value built into the SOM educational program. I also liked the fact that professors were always pursuing research to advance medical science, not just teach it.
My story. Our university.