Posted on: January 28, 2020
When Lindsay Cobbs was 16 years old, he was admitted to the hospital for a medical issue. He recalled the difficulty his family experienced trying to understand the medical terminology as the doctors explained his care plan. This sparked his initial interest in pursuing a career in health care.
“I didn’t want others to have to go through the same challenges as my family did in not having someone explain what was happening in a way which they could understand,” he says.
The arrival of a new pharmacist in Cobbs’ hometown of St. George in Dorchester County, South Carolina, inspired him to want to become a pharmacist. Cobbs observed the respect shown to that pharmacist and admired how he was able to help people in their small community.
Not everyone, however, agreed that would be his best path. Despite Cobbs’ class rank as a Top Ten graduate, his high school guidance counselor did not share Cobbs’ enthusiasm for his career choice in pharmacy, telling him it would difficult for him to succeed in such a rigorous program. Disappointed, Cobbs acquiesced and changed his major to education.
“I assumed that if I couldn’t follow my first dream, then perhaps I could follow my love of teaching others,” he says.
Yet, the pull of one’s heart can be a powerful force. So can the will of a focused and determined young man. Feeling disillusioned with his choice of major, Cobbs made an impromptu visit to the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy dean’s office.
“A gentleman asked could he help me, and I told him I wanted to know more about the pharmacy program,” Cobbs says. As fate would have it, that gentleman was Farid Sadik, then dean of the College of Pharmacy. Sadik assured Cobbs that he did possess the required aptitude and capabilities to become a pharmacist. He also told Cobbs that he expected to see him in his college the next semester. Cobbs left that meeting inspired and more determined than ever to pursue his dream.
Cobbs graduated with his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in 1992. His career path is nothing less than impressive in both traditional and non-traditional roles. “I know that earning my pharmacy degree is what prepared me to be able to handle these jobs,” he said. “Pharmacy is one of those careers that lets you be flexible.”
After being recruited at the Pharmacy Career Fair, Cobbs began his career as a staff pharmacist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. After four years, he entered regulatory affairs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) where he served as special assistant and lead project manager in the Office of Compliance and later as associate director in the Office of Translational Research.
His successful experience with the FDA helped land Cobbs’ first position in the corporate sector at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson & Johnson. He worked as the policy lead in in the Global Regulatory and Policy Intelligence Division. Cobbs is currently the head of Americas, Global Regulatory Policy and Intelligence for UCB, a global pharmaceutical company based in Belgium. He maintains his home in Washington, D.C.
Mentors have taught me that you should always be open to the non-traditional roles that are out there.
Cobbs considers it a personal goal to help younger pharmacists and pharmacists-to-be understand all that may be available to them in moving their careers forward. He also is a fierce advocate for the pharmaceutical profession to take its well-deserved place in advancing health care.
“I didn’t know the job I have today even existed,” he says. “Mentors have taught me that you should always be open to the non-traditional roles that are out there.”
Helping to increase diversity in pharmacy roles is also a great passion for Cobbs. Named for his parents, in 2018, he established the Elizabeth and James Cobbs Diversity Outreach Fund in the College of Pharmacy for the purpose of raising awareness of pharmacy careers in South Carolina’s rural and often underserved areas and, ideally, recruiting qualified students to our college.
“It is through what I do – giving back, how I approach things, and the ethic instilled in me by my parents – that has helped me succeed in what I do,” he says.
For his success not only in his career endeavors, but also for his dedication to helping aspiring pharmacy students realize their own dreams, the College of Pharmacy named Cobbs as its Alumnus of the Year for 2019.
We have the ability to lead the change and shape where we want the future of pharmacy to be.
Because he understands the effort it took for him to reach his career goals, Cobbs hopes alumni from the College of Pharmacy will remember how the school supported them as well.
“The university is in a great position with tremendous potential to grow even further,” he says. “When our alums are successful, the school gains in reputation. That results in greater ability to recruit, to fundraise and to grow programs like the Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center that other schools cannot offer.”
Cobbs knows that while he is no longer providing direct patient care as a practicing pharmacist, his role is one that will positively impact patients for many generations.
“While I am working to shape policy and laws, we are transforming the future of health care,” Cobbs says. “We have the ability to lead the change and shape where we want the future of pharmacy to be.”