Culpepper, Keliegh S., MD
I was born in Houston, Texas. Texas is a great place to be FROM, but growing up I always longed for a year of four seasons. I did my undergraduate studies at Wellesley College, where I majored in Biology and minored in Italian language. The Boston area was a terrific place to go to college, and living there finally fulfilled my dream of living in a place that had four beautiful seasons. As an undergraduate I had the unique opportunity to study histology; the microanatomy of undiseased human tissues. Histology is typically studied at the medical school level, and even then students get only a very quick glimpse of the microscopy of normal human tissues. I spent a luxurious, albeit nerdy year studying the microanatomy of the human body. I was amazed at the brilliant design of the cells and tissues in each organ system, as the structure of each was perfectly created to follow the function it was required to perform.
I subsequently spent the next two years doing research with my histology professor. During this time, I learned histotechnology (the preparation, cutting and staining of tissues) both for the light microscope and for electron microscopy. I prepared standard H&E sections, did cryostat sections (frozen tissue), and did immunohistochemical stains by hand as part of my research. Near the end, I conceded to myself that I was a “closet” premed. After college, I did basic science research for two years before finally starting medical school at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. In medical school I found I had a bit of a knack for pathology, which is the microscopic study of diseased tissues. I loved seeing patients, though, and when I accidentally discovered the field of dermatopathology, I knew immediately that dermatology was to be my field of study. The macroscopic presentation of skin disease is easily seen on dermatology patients, and easily retrieved via skin biopsies for microscopic examination. I did an internal medicine internship at Johns Hopkins, where I was an “Osler marine” on the wards of the hospital. I then stayed to do my residency in Dermatology, and moved back up to Boston to do a Dermatopathology fellowship at Harvard.
Following fellowship, I practiced dermatopathology full time for nearly five years in a private group in the Boston area. By that time, my husband Andre and I had one daughter and another on the way. The long, hard Boston winters that had once entranced me were now getting difficult to bear, as we struggled with snow suits, mittens etc. When the opportunity arose to move to Tucson, Arizona, we were intrigued by the possibility of a new adventure in a region of the country filled with desert landscape, unique wildlife and dozens of national parks to explore. We have now been in Tucson for several years, and have never regretted the move!
My goal as a dermatopathologist at Dermpath Diagnostics is not only to make the correct diagnosis, but to determine the most precise diagnosis possible for your patient. This is especially true for diagnosing inflammatory disease and alopecia. Because clinicopathologic correlation is critical, I use clinical photos, clinical history and laboratory results to help arrive at the best diagnosis. I love searching the literature for supporting data and I enjoy actively working with clients to help care for their patients. Although I am a full time dermatopathologist, I work to maintain my dermatology clinical skills by regularly attending grand rounds, educational meetings and volunteering in area skin cancer screenings.
Our group is involved with teaching residents from several dermatology residency programs throughout Arizona, and we frequently have dermatology residents, medical students, physician assistants and others rotating through our laboratory.
Life is busy outside of the dermatopathology world. My husband Andre and I have our hands full with three small children: Cambria (5), Scarlett (2.5) and Auguste (1). In my spare time I enjoy cooking and baking cookies with my children, reading all kinds of books, and exploring Arizona with my family. We are very happy to call Arizona home.