Two UCSD women are honored by state lawmakers for their impact on local communities

State Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and UC San Diego assistant professor of pediatrics Dr. Toluwalasé “Laṣé” Ajayi
State Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) greets UC San Diego assistant professor of pediatrics Dr. Toluwalasé “Lasé” Ajayi at a Woman Making Herstory ceremony in March.
(Office of state Sen. Toni Atkins)

State Sen. Toni Atkins recognizes assistant professor of pediatrics Dr. Toluwalasé ‘Lasé’ Ajayi as a Woman Making Herstory, and Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath names Women’s Center Director Marnie Brookolo as a Woman of Impact.


In celebration of Women’s History Month in March, two women connected to UC San Diego in La Jolla were recognized by area state legislators for their contributions to advancing women’s causes.

State Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) recognized UCSD assistant professor of pediatrics Dr. Toluwalasé “Lasé” Ajayi as a Woman Making Herstory.

Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas) recognized UCSD Women’s Center Director Marnie Brookolo as a 2023 Woman of Impact for Assembly District 77, which includes La Jolla.

“We have a tradition in the Legislature of celebrating women ... who are accomplishing amazing things in their communities,” Atkins said.

Dr. Toluwalasé Ajayi

Ajayi is a community pediatrician, an adult and pediatric palliative medicine physician and a clinical translational researcher.

“When I first met Dr. Ajayi, I was inspired by her life story,” Atkins told the La Jolla Light. “At the age of 7, she immigrated from Nigeria as a political refugee. Dr. Ajayi went on to earn a medical degree and become a distinguished pediatrician and medical researcher. ... It was an honor to recognize her accomplishments during the ‘Women Making Her-story’ ceremony on the Senate floor.”

Ajayi is president of the San Diego County Medical Society — the first Black woman to be elected president in the group’s 152-year history, Atkins said. She also is a trustee of the American Medical Association and chairwoman of the Council on Medical Services of the California Medical Association.

“I’m a first-generation immigrant, mother of three, physician, spouse, researcher and Black woman physician who cares for patients at both ends of the life spectrum,” Ajayi said in a statement. “I’m a pediatrician who practices adult and pediatric medicine in the hospital, in the clinic and in the home — in both an academic and community practice setting. I use my voice and my perspective to shatter barriers to quality, physician-led care for all patients while ensuring my colleagues regain their joy in the practice of medicine.”

Ajayi is credited with a long history of leadership in policy-making and organized medicine at the American Academy of Pediatrics and is an AAP delegate to the American Medical Association, where she advocates for children with serious illnesses.

Ajayi was not immediately available for direct comment to the Light.

Marnie Brookolo

UC San Diego Women's Center Director Marnie Brookolo is a 2023 Woman of Impact for state Assembly District 77.
(UCSD Women’s Center)

Brookolo was recognized by Boerner Horvath for her contributions to civic engagement.

“Every day, our communities are shaped by the countless women uniquely contributing to improve life for us all,” said Horvath, who honored 10 women in various categories. “I am so proud … to recognize some of the change-makers in our community and express our gratitude by honoring them.”

Brookolo joined the UC San Diego Women’s Center as a work-study student in 2002, became assistant director three years later and was appointed director in 2012, leading “a space in which people work collaboratively to foster the educational, professional and personal development of diverse groups of women,” according to the university. “The center provides education and support to all members of UC San Diego regarding gender issues, with the goal of promoting an inclusive and equitable campus community.”

Brookolo oversees the center’s operations and program development, among other things.

Last year, in honor of the Women Center’s 25th anniversary, Brookolo said the contribution she is most proud of is creating the center’s internship program.

“Each intern cohort brings so many different perspectives,” she said. “One of my favorite things is getting to see interns challenge themselves around an issue that maybe they were scared to work on but are doing it and seeing their growth while engaging with these topics. So much of our work is planting seeds.”

Boerner Horvath told the Light that it was “a privilege to honor Marnie’s commitment to closing the gender gap and working toward a more equitable future. Thank you, Marnie, for your dedication to uplifting women in our community.”

Brookolo also was not immediately available for direct comment to the Light.

Women’s Center staff member and longtime colleague Jess Geipel said Brookolo’s “support of staff and caring, inclusive leadership has meant so much to me and many others for many years.” ◆