Jacobson’s story of battling illness while teaching featured in UCSF Magazine

At the age of 39, UCSF biophysicist Matthew Jacobson, PhD, was trailblazing new paths in drug discovery and training future generations of scientists and pharmacists. But he was also struggling with worrisome and worsening symptoms like tremors, an unsteady gait, severe pain shooting down his arm. When he finally received his diagnosis—Parkinsons—it was almost a relief.

In a recent feature, UCSF Magazine highlights how Jacobson, a faculty member in the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, uses his journey with the disease as a powerful teaching tool for doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) students.

In lectures delivered each November, Jacobson combines his vast scientific knowledge with his experience as a patient benefitting from drug therapy to paint a vivid picture of the human impact of biomedicine.

The UCSF Magazine article takes readers into some of Jacobson's lectures:

As Jacobson recites his journal entry from July 23, 2012, to his class, he admits the poignancy of his now-familiar words. He carefully swallowed half a tablet of L-dopa and within 15 minutes could feel the drug starting to work. His right arm, which had felt numb for a very long time, began to wake up.

For pharmacy students laboring to understand the effects of drugs, Jacobson offers a firsthand account as well as the observations of a trained scientist. His body’s quick response confirmed his fear: He had young-onset Parkinson’s, which had likely been developing for years. “I started to feel normal, and I hadn’t felt normal in a very long time,” he reads from his journal.


This professor sees brain disease through a unique lens (UCSF Magazine)


School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.