Member Spotlight: Dr. Bernard Robinson
Dr. Bernard Robinson has made his mark on the medical profession in Hawaii. He is the former Chief of Neurosurgery at Tripler Army Medical Center, served as Chief of Neuroscience and Chief Neurosurgeon at Kaiser Medical Center and has been instrumental in advancing neuroscience in Hawaii. He has also served as president of the Hawaii Medical Association and has authored two books about his life and neurosurgery in Hawaii.
Born to a poor Black family in Plant City, Florida, Dr. Robinson was presented with many challenges on his way to becoming a doctor. He was born in the strongly segregated South, where poverty, racism and a lack of role models meant success in his neighborhood was staying out of jail and getting through school without being killed. Dreaming of a family and having enough money to have a home was already a stretch; being a doctor and becoming a neurosurgeon seemed totally out of reach.
Dr. Robinson’s path to success began at the University of Southern Florida, where he was one of the first ten African American graduates. He later attended medical school at Howard University, and became the first African American to be trained in neurosurgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His Army career brought him, his wife Shirley, and their three young children to Hawaii in the summer of 1980. He was assigned as one of two neurosurgeons to work at Tripler Army Medical Center. His wife fell in love with Hawaii as a wonderful and safe place to live and raise their children. This was a career changing decision giving Hawaii the blessing of having Dr. Robinson serve the local medical community ever since. To remain in Hawaii, Dr. Robinson left active military service, but joined the Tripler Army Reserve unit retiring as an 0-6 (full colonel).
Dr. Robinson is the author of Two Ropes, an autobiography highlighting the quiet friendships between African Americans and Caucasians in this life that were keys to his and his wife’s successes. In his southern hometown, such friendships were not open and were politically unhealthy; Two Ropes reveals and honors those risky relationships and speaks to how much greater America could be if everyone were free to associate and contribute to the best of their abilities without prejudice. He is set to release a second book, The History of Hawaii Neurosurgery which is presently in content review by his publisher.