Caitlin Robinson is a board-certified dermatologic surgeon with the Colorado Springs Dermatology Clinic. She is trained in the Mohs micrographic technique, having completed her residency in Houston and her fellowship in micrographic surgery and dermatologic oncology at the University of California in San Francisco.
“I went to medical school at [Louisiana State University] in New Orleans,” Robinson said. “I did five years of training after medical school. I spent a year in Seattle for my internship. Mine was a transitional year, so it was a mix of both surgery and internal medicine. I then returned to the South for a dermatology residency at MD Anderson [Cancer Center, University of Texas] in Houston. I applied for a Mohs surgery fellowship during the last year of my residency and landed one in San Francisco at UCSF … before moving to Colorado Springs.”
Mohs surgery is considered the most effective technique for treating many common skin cancers.
“With the Mohs approach, we can conserve skin and prevent repeat surgeries,” Robinson said. “I cut out the skin cancer with a very narrow margin, and then in the clinic we flash freeze the tissue, process it, and cut slides from it. We stain those slides … [and] when ready, I will read those to determine whether the margins are clear or not. It’s unique because while I am the surgeon, I’m also the pathologist. Dermatologists are the only specialty that’s trained in pathology besides pathologists.”
Robinson talked with the Business Journal about her educational journey, her passion for her practice and what she loves about living in Colorado Springs.
Why did you pursue dermatology?
I have two siblings — two sisters — and I’m in the middle. Both of my sisters are in medicine; one of them is a family medicine doctor and the other is a dentist. But foremost, both of our parents are dentists. My dad encouraged us to go into medicine, and thankfully we all really wanted to and liked it so we didn’t feel like we were cornered into it.
I had a particular interest in math and science, which kind of pushed me towards medicine, probably: biology, chemistry, algebra. In high school, I did some shadowing of doctors who were friends of my parents. I had a good feeling that I would go into medicine even in high school. When I went to college, I started as a pre-med, and continued on that path. I did some more shadowing and worked in a pathology lab while earning my undergraduate degree. It was actually a dermatopathology lab, which relates to what I do now. I shadowed one of my dad’s friends who is a great dermatologist in Louisiana … while I was in college. He was very enthusiastic and energetic about skin conditions; he inspired me to pursue the field further. He was the first dermatologist that I had shadowed. I tried to remain open-minded throughout medical school — we do rotations in every field — but I kept coming back to dermatology.
All those experiences together solidified my decision to pursue this career. Admittedly, I enjoy having a track laid out; I prefer to know what I’m doing next. I’m a planner, and a bit of a perfectionist.
You attended medical school at Louisiana State University. Where did you earn your bachelor’s?
The University of Georgia, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences in Athens, Georgia. I was born and raised in Monroe, Louisiana and I wanted to get out of state for a while when I graduated high school. My parents are retired, and they still live in Monroe. My whole family does, both my sisters and their husbands — one of them has kids.
What brought you to Colorado Springs?
I moved to Colorado Springs in 2019. When I was looking for a job after my fellowship, we were looking at a few states. I did a few interviews, but there was a friend doing a research fellowship in San Francisco while I was there. She was from Colorado Springs and knew one of the dermatologists at the practice I’m at now — and also knew that they were looking for a Mohs surgeon like me. She referred me, I came and interviewed and loved it. The rest is history. ... I completed my fellowship in June. My husband and I decided to take some time to travel before working in Colorado Springs. We went on three big trips: Hawaii, Mexico and Ireland — Ireland for almost a month. In Mexico, we went to Tulum and Bacalar. We love Mexico. We got married in Mexico. My husband is half Mexican and his family lives in south Texas.
We moved into a house in the Old North End in August 2019. I really don’t like moving, and we had moved cross country about twice in a year. I was pretty determined to get a house when we got here ... .
What makes your clinic unique?
I love that in my clinic I get to work alongside nine other dermatologists who provide me with great support. I feel like I’m never alone — I can always ask for help or seek advice from colleagues. We have a really special staff — we get so many compliments about our staff … and how great we are.
What’s a typical work day look like for you?
I start seeing patients at 8 a.m. On my surgery days, I see patients from 8 a.m. until they are done. Surgery days can be unpredictable, so patients have to come prepared to potentially stay all day. Those days can go as late as 6 p.m. I have two surgery days a week, but I’m adding another soon — which will ultimately amount to about two and half days of my work week. On my general dermatology days, I see patients from 8 a.m. to 4 or 4:30 p.m. General days are for consultations, examinations, basic skin checks.
We opened a new office [last] July in the Briargate area, which is the location that I primarily work out of.
What do you like about dermatology?
First of all, I just find dermatology really interesting — there are thousands of skin diagnoses that you can make. Also, within dermatology, there are so many things that you can do: you can focus on general dermatology, pediatric, surgical dermatology — which is my specialty — or cosmetic dermatology.
I love that the patients I see over time … you can form long-term professional relationships with them. The practitioner-patient interactions and relationships are what I enjoy the most; it makes my job worthwhile, and makes me want to go to work in the morning. I’m always very kind to my patients and give them time to explain their problems and their concerns about surgery. I try not to rush. I take my time, and I’m a perfectionist when it comes to surgery. Sometimes a patient may have to stay a little while, because I’m not going to cut the visit short or rush it.
Most patients have other medical histories, and you have to know what’s going on with them. You need to know and understand their other medical concerns so you can treat them properly. They may have a pre-existing condition that needs to be dealt with before skin cancer surgery. For example, I have a patient who has seen me about a lower leg rash, but that rash is related to edema in his lower legs, and I can only do so much — but I need help from his internal medicine doctor and his cardiologist. I have to understand and know my limits, and not attempt to make his issue better alone or independently. Otherwise, I may just be putting a band-aid on his problem. So when looking at long term solutions, you need to properly coordinate care — what needs to be addressed first. What’s the primary issue? Which goes back to the benefits of my internship, studying and practicing both surgery and internal medicine — and the entirety of my medical education.
I find that I enjoy performing surgery — the time passes quickly. I also enjoy that I can talk to the patients while I’m doing surgery, because we use local anesthetic and not general anesthetic — to go back to building relationships with my patients.
What do you love about Colorado Springs?
I love how sunny it is here, not much humidity, hardly any insects or bugs. I like that you can get outside easily — we have trails basically in our backyard. I ski; my husband snowboards. I love the people and community. I think it’s a great size, but I do like that it is growing. Some people complain about the increased traffic, but coming from Houston and San Francisco, this traffic is nothing. It’s really cool to see Colorado Springs develop with new restaurants and venues.
Any restaurants that you particularly enjoy here in the Springs?
I am so impressed with Luigi’s. It is so good. It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but you go inside and it is the cutest Italian restaurant—I like the ambience and the pasta is incredible. I also really like Lucky Dumpling, The Rabbit Hole, T-Byrd’s — they have good margaritas. I also like Shuga’s; their spicy coconut shrimp soup is so good. I love Chiba Bar; the menu is short, but everything is so, so good.
I sometimes miss the food in Louisiana. The Cajun-Creole dishes — it’s so good everywhere. I miss the people and the culture. Living in New Orleans for four years — in medical school — I was immersed in the culture and the festivals. I don’t miss the weather, though. It’s very hot and humid. You didn’t even want to go outside a lot of the time. I love the weather in Colorado. Oh, with a friend, my husband and I threw a crawfish boil this year here in the Springs … brought a little Louisiana to Colorado.