Perry Robins, MD Biography
Founder President, The Skin Cancer Foundation
Perry Robins, MD, is a world-renowned surgeon and medical pioneer who changed the way people think about the sun. He’s also a teacher, mentor, philanthropist, entrepreneur, publisher, adventurer, father, grandfather and joke-teller.
Robins grew up in New Jersey during the Great Depression, where money was scarce. He struggled in school with undiagnosed dyslexia and grueling part-time jobs. Despite that, he became the first person in his family to attend college. It wasn’t until he was drafted into the Army, though, that a mentor saw his potential and planted the seed for a big dream: to become a doctor.
And he did, with some assistance from the GI Bill, at Heidelberg University School of Medicine in Germany. Dr. Robins returned to New Jersey for his internship, then did a residency at the Bronx VA Hospital and completed his dermatology training at NYU.
During what would become the turning point of his career, Dr. Robins studied a type of skin cancer surgery invented by Frederic Mohs, MD, at the University of Wisconsin and recognized that this technique had great potential for the field of dermatology. He brought the technique back to NYU and established the first fellowship training program in Mohs surgery. Despite resistance, Dr. Robins upended conventional wisdom in the medical community by showing dermatologists that they could be skin cancer surgeons.
Dr. Robins performed more than 47,000 skin cancer surgeries during his 40-plus years of practice at NYU — and saved many lives. He taught Mohs surgery in nearly 50 countries and in four languages. Today, about 40 percent of all doctors who specialize in Mohs surgery were either trained by Dr. Robins or by the doctors he trained. He created two dermatology journals to spread the word among physicians. Dr. Robins is also the founder president of the International Society for Dermatologic Surgery, a founder and former president of the American College of Mohs Surgery and former president of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery.
In his crusade to fight the long-held belief that tanning was healthy, Dr. Robins started The Skin Cancer Foundation in 1979 to educate the public about prevention, early detection and treatment of the world’s most common cancer. It was the first charitable organization to focus exclusively on skin cancer, and Dr. Robins served as its president until 2016, before turning that role over to one of his former fellows, Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD. The Foundation continues to grow and spread his message as it celebrates its 40th birthday in 2019.
Dr. Robins also learned to fly, invested in businesses and real estate, traveled the world, married and divorced twice, had two kids and found the love of his life at the age of 76. Now retired from practicing medicine, Dr. Robins invests in start-ups and splits his time between New Jersey, New York City and the Palm Beach area. His memoir, Saving Our Skin: A Surgeon’s Story of Tenacity, Adventure and Giving Back, was published by River Grove Books in September 2019.