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Award-winning midstate doctor is on front lines of health care battles

Loren Robinson, MD - (Photo / Submitted)

Loren Robinson has her dream job: working as the deputy secretary for health promotion and disease prevention at the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Right now, Robinson is monitoring public health issues such as the Zika virus and the opioid epidemic.

In regard to the Zika virus, Robinson is the state senior health official overseeing prevention efforts in Pennsylvania, and is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

When it comes to the opioid epidemic, her focus is on how to help children and their mothers after babies are born to mothers with substance abuse problems.

She also oversees programs including the Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC program, a nutrition program that provides food, health care referrals and nutrition education to low-income new mothers and their children.

Robinson provides health education and organizes public health programs on everything from quitting tobacco to preventing infectious diseases.

“You name it, I can find you some information,” Robinson said.

Last week, Robinson won a 40 Under 40 Leaders in Health Award from the National Minority Quality Forum. The organization honors young minority leaders, including physicians, pharmacists, dentists, nurses, policy experts, researchers and others, who are making a difference in health care around the country, according to a news release.

Robinson, with the other 39 award winners, will be recognized at the 2016 National Minority Quality Forum Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. on April 11 and 12.

“If anything I was just really surprised and honored to be selected,” Robinson said. “There’s some really great people doing some really great work all around the country.”

Robinson, who will be 35 in May, graduated from medical school in 2009 and started working for the Department of Health in August 2015.

Here are three things to know about this award-winning doctor working in the midstate.

Career goal: To visit every county in the state

Pennsylvania has 67 counties, and Robinson recognizes that programs that work for one county might not work for another.

“We have a big and beautiful state,” Robinson said. “I want to get a perspective of public health across the state.”

She has a goal to visit every county. She sees a portion of Pennsylvania on her ride to work every day.

Robinson lives in Philadelphia, and rides the train to work in Harrisburg.

Personal life: Always on the move

Robinson is energetic, and when she’s not working, she stays on the move.

She enjoys running, reading and traveling.

She also still sees patients on the weekend, working as a night shift doctor at a hospital outside of Philadelphia.

“It keeps me grounded,” Robinson said.

Health care runs in her family

Growing up outside of Buffalo, N.Y., Robinson wanted to be a doctor when she was little.

Her father is a pediatrician and her mother is a pediatric nurse.

As a teenager, that changed. Robinson wanted to be anything other than a doctor.

But, once she started Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., she kept coming back to health care and service-related careers.

She went on to North Carolina and attended Duke University School of Medicine. Robinson completed her residency at UNC Health Care.

She then came to Pennsylvania and completed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

During her residency in North Carolina, Robinson described seeing one patient at a time, but yet still thinking of community-level factors that can’t be addressed by a doctor with a prescription pad.

“I felt like I wanted to do more for the community as a whole,” Robinson said.

She gets to do just that in her role today.

Lenay Ruhl

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