Spotlight on: June K. Robinson, MD
In dermatology, we are fortunate to have many insightful practitioners and great teachers and mentors. Some are bright stars in our special universe – others unsung heroes. All of these colleagues have much to share, from wisdom to humor to insights into dermatology and life. This column allows us to gain insight from these practitioners and learn more about them.
Dr. Robinson is a research professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She was the first woman President of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (1994-95), is the past-secretary treasurer of the American Academy of Dermatology and is a past president of the Illinois division of the American Cancer Society. She has served as the editor of the Archives of Dermatology, now JAMA Dermatology, since 2004.
In 2002, Dr. Robinson’s dedication and contributions to the field of dermatology were recognized by the Women’s Dermatologic Society with The Wilma Bergfeld, MD Visionary and Leadership Award. In 2004, her contributions to skin cancer prevention were recognized by the American Cancer Society with the St. George Medal.
In 2013, she was made an honorary member of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Q. What part of your work gives you the most pleasure?
A. I enjoy working with a high performance team of committed people united with a common goal. It is working with people and not what the project is that gives the pleasure.
Q. Are an understanding and appreciation of the humanities important in dermatology and why?
A. Working with others is based upon a set of principles based in the humanities and ethics. Currently, I have the privilege of leading a team of committed behavioral scientists and research assistants performing NIH-sponsored research in the primary and secondary prevention of skin cancer.
Q. What is your greatest regret?
A. I regret my inability to recognize that a chapter in my life was closing and move on sooner than I did.
Q. Which patient had the most effect on your work and why?
A. The first patient with melanoma who I cared for that died from the disease. This 32-year-old woman delayed diagnosis for years and died leaving 4 young children without a mother, and a husband without a wife and mother for his children. Her bravery in her terminal period was an inspiration to work for a treatment for metastatic melanoma. Her family is my mental image for the inspiration to sit through so many task forces, committees, focus groups and board meetings, while always hoping to gain insight from the others or find a way to unite the team and move the program forward.
I have carried this person and her family in my mind for over 20 years through many meetings that went “nowhere,” too many weekends away from family and many mentally and physically exhausting projects. I use that image to find the energy and focus to work on prevention and early detection of skin cancer.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you have received and from whom?
A. “In dermatology ideas are easy and cheap; seeing them to completion is hard”—Ruth Freinkel, MD, dermatologist, past editor of the JID, professor of dermatology, Northwestern University, circa 1980.
Q. Which medical figure in history would you want to have a drink with and why?
A. Madame Curie and I would go for tea as our drink. She brought herself up from poverty and struggled her whole life to support her work. The knowledge that she gained helped to save thousands of lives.
Q. What is the greatest political danger in the field of dermatology?
A. The specialty is increasingly viewed as not being “real doctors.” Our office-based practice removes us from the realm of the hospital rounds. The inpatient service is the incubator for creating myths about the specialty.