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Resident Spotlight - Jembber Robinson, MD

Jembber. It’s an unusual name with a special meaning. “It’s an Ethiopian name that means ‘ray of the shining sun,’” Dr. Jembber Robinson explained. “My mom had a friend who was dying of cancer when she was pregnant with me, and she wanted to do something special to honor him,” Robinson said. “When I was a kid, it bothered me. Now, I like it. It fits me.”

Growing up in Columbia, SC, little Jembber knew when she was 9 years-old that she wanted to become a doctor. “I was in and out of the doctor’s office a lot when I was kid, and my pediatrician was awesome, so I wanted to be like him,” Robinson said. “After I told him that, every time we would come in, he would give me little pearls of wisdom.”

One of those pearls was a suggestion that she go to pharmacy school before attending medical school.  Robinson took that advice, earning a pharmacy degree from Florida A&M University. “It’s been beneficial.  I had more hands-on clinical experience before medical school working with physicians, nurses and pharmacists,” Robinson said. “I can figure out what this drug will or won’t do for a patient or if it might interact with another drug.”

She never intended to practice as a pharmacist, but after graduating from Florida A&M, Robinson felt she needed a break from her schooling.  She worked as a pharmacist in Atlanta for five years before deciding it was time to realize her dream of becoming a physician and enrolling in the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.

On the advice of a med school clerkship director, Robinson applied to the Phoebe Family Medicine Residency. “I was pretty much sold on interview day because of Dr. (George) Fredrick,” she said. “I called my mom right away and said ‘I just met the nicest and most genuine person, and he’s actually the director of this residency program. ‘ I knew I could come here and he would be an advocate for me.”

As if being a first-year resident isn’t challenging enough, Robinson has the extra pressure of raising three children, a 10 year-old daughter and 6 and 2 year-old sons. “There are days when you feel like a crappy mom for missing a program at school, but so far my children are doing really well,” she said.

Thankfully, her mother moved with her to Albany to offer support and to make sure someone is there for the children when Dr. Robinson simply can’t be. “She’s a lifesaver,” Robinson said. “I told her, ‘I don’t know how I will be able to repay you.’  But she just said, ‘that’s what mothers do.’”

Since she moved to Albany, Robinson’s divorce was finalized, three close relatives died and she had to have emergency surgery. She credits her fellow residents with helping her through those tough times. “My class feels like a family. They’ve been really supportive. I really feel like they are going to be some of my best friends for the rest of my life.”

Despite a difficult year, Robinson believes she is right where she is meant to be. “If I could do it again, I would pick the same place. It has been a really good fit, and I’m confident it will get me where I need to be as a physician. Maybe this rough year will help me reach a patient and pat them on the back and say, ‘it’ll be okay. You’ll get through.’”

Kind of like a ray of the shining sun beaming through to bring comfort to someone in need.