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College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

10 May 2019

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The best of both worlds

Mixing basketball and university, JCU graduate Kelvin Robertson’s approach to life is anything but ordinary.

Currently a clinical trials pharmacist at The Townsville Hospital (TTH), Kelvin Robertson’s time at university was hardly run of the mill. While studying, he was also playing professional basketball for the Townsville Crocodiles.

While it sounds tough, it’s proof that juggling work, life’s responsibilities and study is something that can be done.

Kelvin has recently finished a stint as Acting Head of Pharmacy at TTH and will finish a PhD in November, 14 years after graduating from pharmacy.

“I signed my first professional contract when I was 17,” Kelvin says. “I was still in Year 12, which was quite early and in hindsight was beneficial for me.

“At that stage I was already working part time in a community pharmacy and I knew that I wanted to do pharmacy after high school. I guess it was a really good push from my parents to pursue an education as well as sport.”

While Kelvin was lucky enough that his semesters of study and basketball season didn’t overlap, it didn’t mean things were always easy.

“It was really good that there wasn’t much overlap. The season for basketball and the university terms, there was probably only about four or five weeks of overlap and that was during exams time,” he says.

“I could approach the Crocodiles staff and say, ‘For these five weeks am I able to attend the training at night time?’. That gave me the opportunity to study during the day and complete my exams and university requirements.”

Even for his final exams the 243-game basketball veteran didn’t let up, organising alternative travel arrangements in order to play in a double-header.

“I can still remember my last OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) exam; it was actually during a double-header against Sydney and Wollongong. We played Sydney on the Friday night, I flew home on the Saturday and did the OSCE at JCU, and then flew back and played on the Saturday night,” he says.

Townsville Hospital
Kelvin Robertson playing basketball
Townville Hospital, where Kelvin is currently a clinical trials pharmacist (Left). Kelvin playing basketball with the Townsville Crocodiles (right).

Transferrable skills

While the physical skills of basketball and pharmacy hold few similarities, the leadership skills used in team sport put Kelvin in good stead for his career as a pharmacist.

“I didn’t quite realise until I started full-time in my pharmacy career that a lot of the skills you learn in any team sports are pretty much directly transferable into a health professional career,” he says.

“A lot of the skills you learn in any team sports are pretty much directly transferable into a health professional career.”
Kelvin Robertson

“The traits like respect and teamwork and communication and resilience I use every day in my work that I do now.”

These soft skills have transferred to pharmacy and assisted Kelvin to complete a Master’s degree as well as a PhD while also working full-time.

“I guess I’m quite lucky that I got to experience those at quite a young age in a quite a cut-throat industry, which is professional sport,” he says. “You either perform or you’re out so I had to quickly develop a good management and leadership style that maintained my professional sporting career and that helps me now in my career as a pharmacist.”

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