William O. Robertson M.D.

William O. Robertson M.D. passed away on November 30th, 2011. He was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1925 to Barbara and William O. Robertson, Sr. Robbie, as he was known throughout his life, graduated from the University of Rochester with a Bachelor’s degree in 1946 and Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree in 1949. Dr. Robertson served his internship at the Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York. There he met Barbara Simpson M.D., with whom he was partnered during their medical residency program. Their working partnership was so successful that they went on to marry in 1952. Robbie next served as Chief Resident at Strong Memorial and Grace New Haven Hospital in New Haven CT. He served in the U.S. Navy, first in the V-12 program that supported his medical training, and later during the Korean War as a ship’s physician. Throughout his entire professional career, Dr. Robertson worked in the academic arena. He began at Yale University and then moved to Ohio State University. At OSU, he was on staff and served as Assistant Dean of the Medical School. In conjunction with OSU, he also served as Medical Director at Ross Laboratories, where he directed research programs. While in Ohio, he began his lifelong interest in clinical toxicology, serving as the Director of the Columbus Poison Control Center. In 1963 he moved to Seattle to serve on the staff of the University of Washington Medical School as Associate Dean and Medical Director of University Hospital. In his many years with UW, he held positions of Professor, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics, and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Robertson was an Attending Physician at UW Hospital, Harborview Hospital, and Children’s Orthopedic Hospital, and served as Medical Director at UW and Children’s during his tenure. Dr. Robertson was the Medical Director of the Seattle (later Washington) Poison Center, and was a leader in poison prevention. He was well known for his introduction of the ‘Mr. Yuk’ symbol to the Northwest, and was known as ‘Dr Yuk’ to colleagues and friends. Dr. Robertson has been recognized locally and nationally for his service to medicine and academia, and has received numerous awards including the Teacher Superior in Perpetuity-Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award from the UW School of Medicine, the 1995 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Abraham Jacob’s Memorial Award, the 1995 AMA Benjamin Rush Award, and the 1998 AAP Lifetime Achievement Award in Medical Education. Robbie was a vital part of medical governance as a long time member and leader of countless professional and medical organizations. He served as President of the King County Medical Society, Washington State Medical Association, and American Association of Poison Control Centers, and as a Washington State delegate to the AMA. He was an enthusiastic and prolific writer. His work included two books, ‘The Handbook of Poisoning’ and ‘Medical Malpractice: A Preventative Approach.’ Dr. Robertson held editorial responsibilities for over 20 different medical publications. His writings regarding medical error prevention were read by doctors throughout the state in his monthly columns, including ‘Robbie’s Roost.’ He was an avid tennis player and jogger, and was passionate about fine dining, as long as chocolate and salt were major components. He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, his brother Larry, niece Leigh Anne, and great nephew, Joseph. He is survived by his five children Kathy, Lynn, Kerry (Kuenzi), Doug (wife Robin), and Andy. He also leaves behind his four grandchildren Daniel, Rachel, Elena, and Foster; nieces and nephews Cadie (husband John), Scott (wife Jill), Donna (husband Ray), Mark, Brett, Robin, and Cyndi; and great nieces and nephews Lee, J.B.,Christopher, Dana, Douglas, Daniel, and Kyle. Special thanks go to the wonderfully caring people at University House Wallingford, Providence Hospice, A Helping Hand Homecare, and Ida Culver Broadview. We are so grateful for all their kindness to and support of our family. The family suggests that memorial donations should be directed to the Washington Poison Control Center, 155 NE 100th St, Seattle, WA 98125; Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation, PO Box 5371 Seattle, WA 98145; or the “William O. Robertson Endowed Student Fund in Pediatric Medicine” thru the UW Foundation, 815 Mercer St, C-5, Box 358045, Seattle, WA 98195-8045. A public memorial will be held on January 7, 2012 at 1:00pm at the Hogness Auditorium in the UW Medical Center.

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  1. Chuck & Marion S
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:29 am | Permalink


    We both enjoyed visiting with your parents over dinner at your house. They were nice people to know and talk to. They will be missed.

  2. Robert C. Hauck, MD
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Shoreline WA

    How many classes of medical students and pediatric residents did Robbie mentor? Too many to count. . . . Robbie played so many important roles in medicine in our state, but I believe he was most influential as a medical educator par excellence with skills that few of us match: always the patient teacher and an advocate for his students. . . . And he played a challenging game of tennis to boot.

  3. Bill Shaul
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Bellevue, WA

    Robbie was everything noted in the obituary..and so much more. As a resident and junior faculty member in the Dept. of Peds., I was blessed to have him as a mentor and colleague, who proveded support and encouragement with a unique combination of wisdom, compassion, and open-heartedness. Thanks for all of it, Robbie.

  4. Kevin G. Beder
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Seattle, WA

    Thank you Dr. Robertson for the famous Mr. Yuk stickers that have saved many a youth and adult from poisoning. You will long be remembered by the Husky Nation! My sincere condolences to his loving family.

  5. Sheila B. Cook
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Edmonds, WA

    Bill Robertson’s work with Compassion & Choices of Washington will always be remembered by me and other board members who knew him. He was instrumental in the growth of our organization and educating other doctors about end-of-life choices. He was a strong advocate for aid in dying. My condolences to his family in the loss of a great man.

    Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink


    In the late 1970′s, I chose Technical Writing as my major. As a new offering at the University of Washington it was being administered as a general studies degree requiring three advisers one of whom had to be working within our science focus. Dr. Robertson was mine. He was the best! I always felt privileged to have him on my ‘team’, thrilled to have met Dr. Yuk, and awed that he had time for me. He did so much for so many. My condolences to all.

  7. Carden Johnston
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Birmingham, Al

    Robbie, a friend, mentor and hero, set the impossible bar for us to reach for; pleasant, personal, warm and effective. His work with American Academy of Pediatrics was always to benefit the child and family. It was inspirational to spend time with him, Barb and the family.

  8. Carden Johnston
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Robbie, a friend, mentor and hero. His work with American Academy of Pediatrics was always to benefit the child and family. His approach to life was exemplary, setting the impossible bar for the rest of us to reach for. He was personal, warm and effective. It was always a great honor to spend time with Robbie, Barb and the children.

  9. Thomas Locke,MD, MPH
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Port Angeles, WA

    Robbie was a friend, a mentor, and an esteemed collegue. He was a visionary and an iconoclast. Both traits often found expression in his memorably provocative resolutions at the Washington State Medical Association’s House of Delegates annual meeting. They always pushed the envelope in terms of striving for the highest levels of medical competence, patient safety, and professional integrity. And many were way ahead of their time. My favorite — a resolution to support admission of qualified naturopathic physicians to medical residency programs — a heretical idea, even today. The resolution was resoundingly defeated, with only two votes in favor. I remain proud to this day that I was one of those two affirmative votes. Dr. Robertson will be sorely missed. We should all try to be more like him — skeptical, generous, compassionate, and brilliantly competent.

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