Meet the Doctor: Christin Collins, DO
Dr. Collins is certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery.
We spoke recently with Dr. Collins about her career, her interests and breast healthcare at Einstein Healthcare Network.
Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor?
A: My path to medicine wasn’t always obvious to me. When I was little, I thought I wanted to be the next Dolly Parton. Things changed dramatically when I was 11 years old, living in Akron, Ohio, and my grandmother experienced a massive heart attack and required a heart transplant. She was able to get a donor heart, which enabled her to live another 10 years. I realized I wanted to impact someone’s life and their family’s life just as her doctors had. This led me to the path of medicine.
Q: Tell us about your education.
A: I earned my Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pa. I completed an internship at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, and a residency in general surgery at Beaumont Trenton Hospital in Trenton, Mich. I continued my training and completed a fellowship in breast surgical oncology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
My fellowship involved treating women from an underserved community with limited resources who had difficulty accessing healthcare, and many experienced economic and language barriers. It’s extremely rewarding to offer quality healthcare to everyone who needs it regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Q: How did you choose surgery, and then breast surgery, as your specialty?
A: When I declared surgery as my interest, multiple mentors warned me that choosing a surgery specialty, especially as a female in a male-dominated field, was going to be a challenging and extremely demanding endeavor. The advice was that I should only choose surgery if I couldn’t envision myself being happy doing anything else. During my last days as a medical student on surgery rotations, I felt sad that I might never see the inside of an operating room again. That told me I should become a surgeon. I was drawn to surgery because it gave me a tangible sense of healing and curing a patient.
My first exposure to breast cancer was when a friend dropped out of medical school to care for her mother, who ended up dying from the disease. The experience my friend’s mother had with the medical system inspired me to learn about what compassionate care looks like outside of doctor’s visits and medications.
During my residency, a 25-year-old college friend reached out to me and said she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was the only physician she knew personally and she asked me to help her understand her diagnosis and treatment. This inspired me to do research to understand the disease.
The more I treated patients during my residency, the more I realized that I wanted to focus solely on women’s health and breast diseases. I also saw the disparities in women’s heathcare and wanted to help remedy the systemic cultural and economic differences. For instance, Black women are less likely to get breast cancer than white women but die at higher rates due to lack of quality medical care.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about being a breast surgeon?
A: As a breast surgeon, I do biopsies and remove both benign and cancerous breast masses. I have special training in techniques for breast conservation and hiding scars.
The most rewarding aspect of this specialty is the relationship I develop with my patients at one of the most difficult times in their life. My friend who had breast cancer said her surgeon provided very little emotional or psychological support, which greatly affected her journey. It was immediately apparent to me how important it is to not only have clinical ability but to also be able to connect with patients as a friend fighting alongside them.
Q: What drew you to Einstein?
A: Einstein was a draw for me because of the connection with the community. Einstein’s history in Philadelphia runs deep, having served the community for more than 150 years. Connection to my community and relationships with patients are the things that drive me to do what I do.
Q: Why should patients come to Einstein for breast care?
A: The breast cancer care at Einstein is excellent because of our multidisciplinary treatment strategies and our bonds with our patients. We work hard to develop these relationships with patients at all levels, from front desk office staff, to nurses, to counselors and physicians. We care deeply about providing quality, compassionate care. Our support for patients includes connecting them to others with similar life experiences, celebrating or commemorating their cancer journey, and also memorializing those who lose the battle.
Q: How do you handle giving patients upsetting news about their condition?
A: It’s never easy telling someone they have breast cancer. It’s a balance of delivering the difficult information in an understandable manner and providing the level of emotional support the patient needs at that time. I can never anticipate how the bad news will be received, and I try to tailor what and how I give the news to each patient.
I give them time to process the news and then proceed or schedule another visit when we can have a more in-depth conversation once the initial shock is over. Until they come in for this visit, our nurse navigator or social worker may call and check on them to see if there is anything we can do to help. We encourage patients to bring a family member or close friend to the discussions because it is a large volume of information to absorb and it can be overwhelming. The more ears to hear the information, the better.
Q: What are your interests outside of work?
A: Theater, music (I just discovered vinyl records), hiking, exploring Philadelphia architecture, parks and restaurants. I enjoy volunteering in the community, and I just started volunteering to walk dogs at the local dog shelters in Center City.
Q: Do you you have a favorite book?
A: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Q: Do you have a favorite movie?
A: It’s a Wonderful Life or The Family Stone.
Q: Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
A: Any beach with warm sunshine!
Q: Is there a person you would like to meet?
A: American professor, lecturer and author Brené Brown; Vice President Kamala Harris; the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg; Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg; and U.S. Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.
Q: Is there an interesting fact people may not know about you?
A: I know basic American Sign Language.
Learn more about breast cancer care at Einstein.