UCSF

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.

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About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy is a premier graduate-level academic organization dedicated to improving health through precise therapeutics. It succeeds through innovative research, by educating PharmD health professional and PhD science students, and by caring for the therapeutics needs of patients while exploring innovative new models of patient care. The School was founded in 1872 as the first pharmacy school in the American West. It is an integral part of UC San Francisco, a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide.