Robinson receives 2017 Distinguished Mentor Award

Robert G. Robinson, MD, professor emeritus of psychiatry and former chair and DEO of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, was honored Tuesday, Oct. 17, with the 2017 Distinguished Mentor Award.

Receiving the award, Robinson used four stories to illustrate his development as a mentor.

“No one really teaches you how to be a mentor. You make mistakes and you learn,” he said.“As the students you have trained leave to go out on their own, in the back of your mind is the hope that they will do better than you did and be even more successful. And, I am proud to say that of the 43 postdoctoral students I trained, 33 are still in academia, 17 are full professors, and three have endowed positions at their institutions.”

In closing he added, “I am very proud of all of them and I am very grateful to receive this award, which will always hold a special place in my life.”

Established in 2002 with the generous support of Dr. Daryl and Nancy Granner, the Carver College of Medicine Distinguished Mentor Award and Lecture event honors faculty members whose distinguished careers have resulted in the mentoring of individuals who have gone on to have their own prestigious careers.

Others who spoke

Michael Welsh, MD, who provides administrative leadership of the program, introduced Eve Marder, PhD, to give the 2017 Distinguished Mentor Lecture, titled “Robustness, Neuromodulation, and Homeostasis in Neurons and Networks.” Marder is the Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Neuroscience and Professor of Biology at Brandeis University. She is internationally known for discovering that neuronal circuits are not hard-wired, but can be reconfigured by neuromodulatory influences to produce a variety of outputs.

In addition, two mentees provided tributes to Robinson, describing the significant impact he had on their lives and careers:

Jeffrey Edwin Max, MBBCh
Professor of Psychiatry
Director, Neuropsychiatric Research, Rady Children’s Hospital
University of California, San Diego

Rajesh Parikh, MD, DPM, DipNBE
Director of Medical Research, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre
Mumbai, India

More about Robinson

In his career, Robert G. Robinson had two major passions—research and teaching—from which the world has benefited greatly.

With more than 50 mentees on five continents, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers of their own, Robinson is one of the most successful mentors in the field of psychiatry. Through mentorship he has passed along not only his extensive knowledge of neuropsychiatry, but also the value of a research career that integrates laboratory discovery and clinical practice.

“Dr. Robinson gave me my first clear view of what a successful multidisciplinary lab could accomplish. He was a generous mentor and important role model,” notes a former fellow who now is a leading investigator in the use of neuroimaging to study the effect of deep brain stimulation for treating mood disorders.

In his laboratory at Johns Hopkins, and later at the University of Iowa, Robinson was committed to improving the care of patients and understanding psychiatric illness through empirical and basic science research.

His conviction that systematic collaborations between basic and clinical researchers would enhance discovery and patient care began when he was a medical student at Cornell University. It grew stronger as he progressed through residency at Cornell and as a research associate with the National Institute of Mental Health’s Laboratory of Neuropharmacology. A fellowship in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences led to his first faculty position there—and the opportunity to test his theory in weekly research meetings.

“Our lab was truly bench to bedside to community,” says a former graduate student of Robinson’s. “We looked forward to the meetings because it was a chance to hear what the lab people were working on, and to find out what the neuroimaging people thought of it. The primate researchers figured out how it might affect their work, and how it all might fit into the theories of the clinical researchers.”

Robinson receives his award from Jean Robillard, MD

Robinson’s interests in research—post-stroke psychiatric syndromes, specifically—and mentoring continued even as he served as the Paul W. Penningroth Professor and Head of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa from 1990 to 2011. Then known as “chairman’s rounds,” Robinson’s weekly sessions with students, trainees, and faculty often produced valuable insights.

“I learned not only about psychiatry, but how to be an educator,” says a faculty member. “He had an incredibly kind and gentle approach to teaching that was not only effective but inspiring, which I try to emulate in my own interactions with learners.”

In 2015, Robinson received two major awards recognizing his exceptional contributions to the field of psychiatry. He was honored as an “author, teacher, scientist, and mentor” with the Gary J. Tucker Lifetime Achievement Award in Neuropsychiatry for his achievements in neuropsychiatry and his years of service to the American Neuropsychiatric Association, including serving as its president 1998–1999. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) presented him with the Jack Weinberg Memorial Award for Geriatric Psychiatry, the only geriatric psychiatry award given by the APA, bestowed upon psychiatrists who demonstrate special leadership or outstanding work in training, clinical practice, or research over the course of their career.

As a colleague notes, “Dr. Robinson’s mentorship has played a role in a large number of the leading scientists in our nation. I can’t think of anyone who has devoted themselves more faithfully to the furthering of the careers of his mentees. The Distinguished Mentor Award is fitting recognition of an outstanding mentor who has impacted education, research, and patient care throughout the world through transfer of his knowledge, skills, and inspiration to new colleagues.”

Friday, October 20, 2017