Making Pennsylvania a Healthier Place to Live
Having grown up with two parents working in the field of medicine, Dr. Loren Robinson, deputy secretary for health promotion and disease prevention at the Pennsylvania Department of Health, isn’t surprised that she has ended up in the field of medicine as well.
As she simply put it, “Medicine is in my genes.”
Robinson grew up in Buffalo, New York. She attended Spelman College in Atlanta, where she was recently honored to join the board of trustees, making her the college’s youngest-ever alumna trustee.
Upon graduation from medical school at Duke, Robinson started a combined residency in adult internal medicine and pediatrics.
“As I was seeing my patients in clinic and the hospital, I came to understand that health access was more than a person’s ability to see the doctor,” she said. “The problems and issues facing my patients could not be solved with a prescription pad.”
Wanting to know more about how to help create policies that could improve the opportunities for better healthcare in the communities that her patients called home, Robinson moved to Philadelphia in 2013 to attend the University of Pennsylvania and study health policy.
She explained that as she finished her master’s in health policy and research, she “realized that I wanted to work in the government or nonprofit sector to create and implement health policies.”
Intrigued by the “breadth and scope” of the position of deputy secretary for health promotion and disease prevention, it seemed a natural fit for her and filled her desire to be involved in change through government work. Robinson is responsible for the health education of communities in relation to the awareness and prevention of health conditions and diseases.
“Many of our programs focus on the very illnesses and risky health behaviors I saw in my clinical patients,” she said. “I initially became interested in the health field because I believe that having good health enables people to feel good about themselves.”
Robinson said that her focus is on preventative health and wellness programming, “geared toward improving the well-being of Pennsylvanians of all ages.”
One area of women’s health particularly near and dear to Robinson is heart health.
“Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths for women each year,” she said. “Heart disease doesn’t affect all women in the same way, and warning signs for women are not the same as in men.”
She strongly urges all women to talk with their doctors about their heart health and to remind the other women in their lives to do the same.
As a woman, Robinson has always been very comfortable in her chosen field because the field of public health is predominantly made up of women, she said. Robinson is also pleased to share that women are well represented at high levels of Pennsylvania government, both in the governor’s cabinet and at the deputy secretary level.
“I strongly encourage women and minorities to get involved with public service and government and to strive for executive and leadership positions,” she said.
It is one way to be certain that those in leadership positions accurately reflect the makeup of the local communities and of the nation as a whole, ensuring the implementation of policies that are fair and that are supportive of these communities.
Being involved in her local community is important to Robinson as well, and that involvement provides an excellent opportunity for people of all ages to learn more about what issues really need attention and improvement.
“I am an active member of Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia,” she said.
She has also been an active mentor since her freshman year of college.
“Currently, I mentor through the Philadelphia Futures organization and also informally support students, usually young women of color, who are interested in careers in medicine and/or public health,” she said.
Even though she has already achieved much, she admits that her path in medicine, public health, and public services has not been a straight or easy one. Yet Robinson said that she never wants to stop learning and growing and that she looks upon challenges as opportunities to learn something new.
“I also believe in being a team player and have a great team at the Department of Health that sharpen me and make me a better thinker and person each and every day,” she said. “Being able to serve the people of Pennsylvania has been one of my greatest gifts thus far.”
Robinson was quite clear on what her advice would be for anyone who has a passionate desire to follow a certain career path.
“I would encourage all people, especially women, not to take no for an answer when it comes to their career paths,” she said. “If someone tells you that you need more experience, ask him or her to be specific about what experiences would better qualify you for a position, and then go out and get that experience. You will get there!” BW