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Beyond the White Coat

Profiles of our Women's Health Providers
Dr. Donna Johnson and Husband
Dr. Donna Johnson and husband, Greg

The phrase “drawing a line in the sand” is often used as a metaphor meaning a point beyond which one will go no further. While not a line in the sand, Donna Johnson literally drew a line across a map of the US from Greenville, SC to coastal California, illustrating her intent to only look south of that line for her residency program. This gesture, as she relays the story in that telltale South Carolinian accent of hers, accompanied her claim of “I don’t like the cold, and I wasn’t going to apply to any programs north of my proverbial line in the sand.” Luckily for the women of South Carolina and MUSC Women’s Health, Donna Johnson, Department Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical University of South Carolina, kept to that promise, eventually ending up in San Diego at the University of California for her residency and fellowship, before eventually heading back to coastal South Carolina and her southern roots.   

The journey, however, was not what one might expect of the average individual considering medicine as a career. Donna Johnson is not average. She was not a native Charlestonian, nor did she come from a family of physicians, scholars or professionals. She was the daughter of a tobacco farmer in rural South Carolina in Horry County. She learned how to drive a tractor at age five. From age nine, she oversaw the daily operations of the tobacco farm during the summer. And, in spite of her love for her family, the South, and warm weather, she couldn’t wait to leave the farm and get an education.

She earned a scholarship to Coastal Carolina University and Francis Marian University, but Furman University was her choice, and it was her tobacco farmer father, Mr. Palmer Johnson, who promised his help in fulfilling his daughter’s dream. “You can be anything you want to be,” he repeatedly told her, and off she went to Greenville to begin her amazing journey.

After four years at Furman and medical school at MUSC, Donna applied to residency programs in Texas, Alabama and California-all locations below the line on the map and clearly warm weather states. While the program at University in Texas at Houston pulled at her, Donna decided upon the University of California-San Diego where Robert Resnik, M.D., a mentor to her and a leading expert in Maternal Fetal Medicine, still practices today.¹ Dr. Resnik once fondly told her that he planned on changing her, but instead she changed them, and in a good way. She considers Resnik her “academic father” and speaks very highly of his influence on her life.

Donna spent a total of nine years in San Diego where she completed her residency, a two year fellowship in maternal fetal medicine and one year in private practice. San Diego is where she also met Greg, her husband of 26 years, was a sailor and a captain. Eventually, their mutual attraction to the sea and its many treasures, aligned closely with their personal goal of one day, living at the beach. When the thrill of the Pacific coast lost some of its appeal and the desire to return home closer to family took over, Greg and Donna packed up their belongings and headed back to Charleston and the beaches of Folly. 

“I came back to Charleston because it had the energy of city life, but not the hassles of bigger city living. I also wanted to help the women of South Carolina and particularly rural women who needed it most.” South Carolina ranked as one of the states with the highest rate of pre-term birth and Donna instinctively knew that South Carolina was where she belonged. “I love babies and as an OB-GYN, I loved being part of the creation of a family, and I wanted to be affiliated with an organization that had a strong maternal fetal medicine program.” Twenty years later, Donna is now the lone female department chair at MUSC, and she stands proudly as a strong voice for the women of South Carolina, regardless of their circumstances, and an advocate for women’s health, regardless of the challenges.  

And yet, medicine is not her only passion. All these years later, Donna and her husband have remained tightly entwined with the sea, living at the beach and traveling the waters of the world from the Galapagos to the Bay of Magdalena, to the icier waters of Alaska. Her eyes light up when she tells the stories of her travels with her best friend and husband, Greg. The Orcas, the gray whales, the hundreds of dolphins they witnessed in a feeding frenzy, the harbor seals giving birth in icy waters, and all of the wildlife she has encountered over the years brings her a similar level of joy as when she places that newborn baby into the hands of its mother. It is life that excites her and the beginning of a human life that drives her desire to help all mothers experience that miracle, whenever possible.

In recalling when she first arrived in Charleston, Donna recalls the first night at Folly Beach. “We went to feed the seagulls and the wind was blowing and the sun was setting, and I realized I was at peace. The waves of the ocean wash away all my problems, and this is where I belong,” she says softly as the conversation closes.

In listening to her retell stories of her life, her travels, her passions, it is not difficult to imagine  why women place their trust in this amazing woman. She provides the expertise when it is most needed. She provides wisdom when difficult decisions are presented. She provides strength and courage when it is needed most. And she provides a voice when others do not have the words.  

 “We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”

- Mother Teresa

 

For more information about Donna Johnson, M.D., MUSC Women’s Health, or to schedule an appointment in downtown Charleston or North Charleston, visit www.MUSCHealth.org/womens or call 843-792-5300.

¹ https://bestinmedicine.org/robert-resnik-m-d/

Dr. Edenfield and Cisco on a runThe autumn season often evokes visions of colorful foliage, cool weather, and the beginning of the winter season, but at MUSC Women’s Health, the word autumn for many women in the Charleston area evokes feelings of hope, gratitude, and relief in the form of their local urogynecology expert — Dr. Autumn Edenfield.

While most OB/GYNs gravitate toward the expected path of taking care of pregnant women and delivering babies, Autumn made her way toward an area of expertise that isn’t as easily discussed or shared “out loud” in open conversations.  

As a Charleston native, Autumn has always loved the Holy City, but she gravitated to a much larger city when selecting a medical school by settling on NYU in the heart of Manhattan. For her, experiencing the rigors of medical school and the thrill and excitement of New York City was one of the most exciting times of her life. Not to mention that New York is where she met her future husband, who was also studying medicine at NYU. When asked why New York in particular, she quickly responded with “I loved the feel and excitement of the city where we could walk to restaurants and shops, and run through the park at any time.” 

“This is why I came back to Charleston,” she added. “It’s a smaller city, but the energy of city life is still there.” As Autumn made her way back to Charleston by way of Duke University, it was in her third year of training that she decided on the path to urogynecology. She wanted to remain involved in research and teaching, and as her mentor from MUSC helped to make that connection, Charleston became a likely destination. 

“I always liked science and biology as a child, but I didn’t want to just be in a lab environment and the choice to specialize in urogynecology arrived when I realized I wanted a combination of surgery and medicine. I wanted to “fix” problems, and uro-gyn has given me that option. It’s very satisfying to be able to actually provide great treatment options for some very serious issues experienced by women. My patients are often very active and proactive in their search for an answer. They aren’t embarrassed about their issues and readily share their personal stories as a way of stressing just how strong their desires are to return to a life of normalcy and no embarrassment. ”

Laughing lightly, Autumn added, “I sometimes feel like I’ve put ‘Ms. Humpty Dumpty back together again.’ In all seriousness, women can experience devastating consequences related to their uro-gyn systems, and I’m glad to be the one to give them hope and an answer to their problems. I also am privileged to work with women of all ages because it’s not just an issue that affects senior women, it can affect women of all ages.”

When asked what she does to relax, Autumn describes her personal life as “always being on the go.” In addition to her busy practice in Mount Pleasant and Summerville, Autumn has a 10-month-old son named Cisco and a fellow physician husband. Still attracted to city life, Autumn and her husband live in the downtown area where they can still walk to restaurants and shops, but also run (another passion).

“Before I became pregnant, I ran several half-marathons and the routes in the downtown area were perfect for training. I picked routes which also housed public water fountains, which made it easier to make my way around town — Hampton Park, Waterfront Park, the Cooper Bridge, Folly Beach, and beyond. I just plug in to a podcast to get in the mood, and I am off to the next water fountain.”

“You just cannot go to Duke University and not end up being a basketball fan,” she adds to the list of pastimes. “Whenever we get a chance, we try to take advantage of March Madness and go to an NCAA basketball game. It doesn’t matter who is playing, it’s just fun to watch.”

As we settle into the end of summer with the promise of cooler weather on the horizon, Autumn Edenfield gears up for her next run and her next surgery. Looking very comfortable in surgical scrubs, she epitomizes the lifestyle which many of her patients seek as they look to her for an answer to their problems – healthy, active, and happy. For our uro-gyn specialist, being able to fulfill their needs is a connection in life worth its weight in autumn gold.

For more information about Autumn Edenfield, M.D. or to schedule an appointment in Mount Pleasant or Summerville, MUSC Health Womens' Health or call 843-792-5300.

Image of Dr. Meglin at Machu PichuThe game “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?” began as an educational resource for teaching children about geography in the early 90s, but Michelle Meglin, OB-GYN created her own version of learning about geography by traveling throughout the world with her favorite traveling companions. Most recently, she could have been found floating in a hot air balloon across the Napa Valley in northern California with her gang of nomads who also relish the thrill of adventure in different locales. Having caught the travel bug early in life, Michelle has traversed our country from east to west, and back again, never content to visit the same place or stay in one location too long. “I have spent a lot of time abroad, but now it’s time to conquer all of the states at home,” she reports with a patriotic air in her matter of fact statement.  

“I love to travel,” she adds. “And, I do so quite regularly. “And,” she adds this time with emphasis and a playful grin on her face, “I don’t always know where I am going.” While that sounds somewhat mysterious, the truth is that within her group of wandering friends, each takes a turn in planning their annual Memorial Day weekend outing. “It’s great to let someone else plan out all the details, be surprised at the choice, and enjoy yourself all at the same time.” But, in spite of her international expeditions and the cross-country ventures, her favorite journey to date is the one that landed her in Charleston, SC.  

“From an early age, I knew I wanted to go into medicine,” begins Dr. Meglin, who was raised in Wilmington, North Carolina with her parents and three siblings. “My family had a tremendous impact on my decision to go into healthcare, and it seemed like a natural path for me.” Unfortunately, the main impetus toward a career in medicine was the result of a personal tragedy that befell her family, hitting her square in the face with mortality. Her brother’s illness and subsequent death at age fifteen, inspired her to make this decision – medicine and taking care of others became her path to follow in life and from that fated choice, she did not waver.

Dr. Meglin attended undergraduate school at Davidson College in North Carolina, followed by medical school at Wake Forest. “Once I chose medicine, I always thought I would go into pediatrics,” explains Dr. Meglin, “But was drawn to women’s care at an early junction in my medical training, and I never looked back.” After graduating from medical school, she went to Virginia Commonwealth University, where she completed her residency in OB-GYN. During this time, her mentor suggested she look at MUSC and Charleston as a place to continue her career. The connection was made and as they say – the rest is history.

Dr. Meglin’s spirit and energy for her patients is revealed daily and it is easy to see that why her true passion in life is women’s health. “I am drawn to the variety of care I see in women’s and at MUSC, the relationships I form and the bonds I create as I help my patients through some major milestones of their lives.” This credo and her ability to connect with her patients is what have made Dr. Meglin so successful early on in her career.

Dr. Meglin has been with MUSC for two years and feels at home in this academic setting at MUSC. She is finding her niche in adolescent medicine, family planning counseling and management, and pregnancy. She also finds great fulfillment in the ability to teach. “My biggest joy is not only seeing patients, but to give back to the next generation of OB-GYN providers. No two days of my job are the same and it is what I love most about my career – the balance, the variety, and of course, the amazing women I get to meet!”

The road to medicine has been a greatest excursion for Dr. Meglin. The journey has not always been perfect, and those who know her well, understand that she keeps that very personal reason for this noble choice in careers, close to her heart, and always on her mind. And, at the end of the day when the sun sets on the beaches of California, or the moon rises over Machu Picchu in Peru, or the heather blooms in the moorlands of Scotland, her patients always know that her humble compassion for women are what make this doctor so unique and special to MUSC Women’s Health.

For more information on Dr. Meglin or to schedule an appointment, call 843-876-3292.

Dr. Change and daughter rehearsign Bye Bye Birdy“What’s the story morning glory? What’s the tale nightingale?” is how the story begins. 

“This is what I do when I am at home,” Gene Chang, M.D., from the Department of Ob/Gyn, states somewhat seriously as he waves to an invisible audience.

“It is common in my house for my wife or son to be at home rehearsing lines with my daughter,” he continues. “When they are ready to perform, a hush falls over the room and the mood is as serious as I might find in an operating room. It’s actually quite scary.” Chang pauses, takes a deep breath and continues smiling. “Sometimes I even get to stand-in for rehearsal.”

“Right now, we are helping my daughter prepare for her role in Bye-Bye-Birdie which her theater group will perform at Piccolo Spoleto,” he adds proudly. ”Her acting/singing is something totally different for us and I didn’t think I would ever have been interested in before. I credit my daughter for introducing me to Hamilton, which is now an obsession for me.”

He laughs easily and then adds, “You know, I think I’d love to act. In fact, I’d like to be that actor-what’s his name-Ken Jeong? You know he’s actually a doctor and has his own TV show. I want to be that guy in my spare time.”

These are not the words you expect to hear from this Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist, a physician who cares for some of the most complicated of pregnancies. He continues talking and claims that he always wanted to be a doctor even though he didn’t come from a family of doctors. “I don’t know if that idea was self-generated or parental programming. I just knew from an early age that I would be a doctor.”

“I was born just outside of San Francisco, but my mother’s work brought my family cross country to the East Coast moving first to New York, then Philadelphia and Miami before landing in Virginia. I went to medical school at the Medical College of Virginia and then came to Charleston for my residency where I met my wife who is also a physician. Following 4 years in the Air Force, I did my fellowship in Maternal Fetal Medicine at MUSC and have remained on staff ever since. Now, I spend much of my time seeing patients in our Fetal Care Center.”

“When I was a resident, I actually answered a casting call for the sequel to Ace Ventura which was filming in Charleston,” he adds during a break in the conversation. “one of the questions the producers asked was whether I would be willing to shave my head for an additional $75. Naturally, I said yes. I was actually cast as a monk in the movie but had to pull out last minute because of work. I think if I’d been in that movie, I would have become Ken Jeong!” he teases, with a bit of Dennis the Menace quality in his voice, and on his face. It’s difficult to know whether he is joking or not as he grabs a piece of candy from the candy bowl on his desk, popping it in between the infectious grin spread across his handsome face. Most likely, he is joking.

When asked how he spends his leisure time, he responds without hesitation. “I’m my kids’ dad and I’m my wife’s husband. It’s pretty amazing how accomplished they are, I just ride their coat-tails. I spend time with my daughter rapping Hamilton or learning about her newest role and I am my son’s biggest fan for whatever sport he is playing. His sport is whatever is in season and I try to help him prepare,” he states with pleasure. “You can often see us throwing a football by our house, playing basketball in the driveway, or taking batting practice at the batting cages near our house.”

“As for me, I play guitar when I can and I love to play golf, though I’m no Tiger Woods- I’m more like Happy Gilmore. Thankfully my colleagues Chris Goodier, Robbie Conatser, and Keith Willan don’t talk too much smack and let me play with them.” He smiles again impishly.

Dr. Change and a studentAs the conversation turns to his profession, the humor is checked and the serious, engaged, and dedicated physician emerges once again. “Fundamentally, my instinct is to be a teacher and sometimes I wonder whether I am a doctor who teaches or a teacher who doctors. It’s a toss-up.  Either way, teaching is a big part of what we do with patients when we diagnose abnormalities in their baby,” When asked to describe why he has chosen to care for the most vulnerable of patients, Dr. Chang explains, “Taking care of babies with malformations is tough and can be emotionally draining. My quirky sense of humor is a way to deal with this I guess. Anyway, for the longest time, we could only “diagnose,” but now we can “fix” some of the problems we find in babies which is cool. We are reimagining the possibilities and hopefully making a difference and this is what drives me to do what I do.”

“My job,” he continues “Is to understand and to be respectful of my patients’ beliefs and desires, and to help them achieve a degree of humanity at this most difficult of times,” he states quite compassionately.

Once again, Gene Chang’s quiet, easy manner fills the air and carries you effortlessly into a place which feels comfortable and secure, setting his audience at ease. A quick and faint smile crosses his face as he sits at his desk surrounded by photos of his family, his friends, and his accomplishments, and in that moment you realize this is no act. Dr. Eugene Chang is the real deal and he is no stand-in. Bravo, Dr. Chang.

For more information on Dr. Chang visit MUSC Health Womens Health or call 843-876-1200.        

Dr. Christopher Goodier on the golf courseSitting behind an ordinary desk wearing a Chicago Cubs World Series jacket, with an autographed sketch of Arnold Palmer gracing one wall of the room, and a collage of New Orleans Jazz Festival posters on another, Dr. Christopher Goodier begins the conversation with, "I am kind of boring." The artwork alone typifies the true nature of this quiet, unassuming man and belies the accuracy of such a self-deprecating statement. We continue speaking about his life, his passion for medicine, and his dedication to his family as he quietly states, "Please call me Chris. I prefer that over Dr. Goodier."

Born and raised in New Orleans, he describes his childhood as being family-centered; a value he strongly embraces within his own family and medical practice. "I was fortunate enough to grow up in a great family, playing golf with my father and brother, and watching my sisters play sports. That was, and still is a very important aspect of my life."  

"My father gave me the picture of Arnold Palmer after he met him a long time ago, so it’s very special to me." After a slight pause in the conversation he continues, "At first I didn’t really appreciate it, but when I found it a few years ago I realized how cool it was. It’s a symbol of all the time I spent with my family and when I look at it, I think of them."

Laughing, he added, "I was a better golfer when I had more time to play!" Today, he makes time to play with his wife and two children when he can. "Our time on the golf course is special because I work a great deal and when we play golf, we talk and just have fun. I also love watching my kids play the sports I love – basketball, golf, whatever, and playing with them as well." The smile on his face clearly says what’s in his heart, why Arnold Palmer adorns his office wall, and why golf remains important in his life.

Having grown up in New Orleans, the move to Charleston was almost a natural for him and his family. "The two cities are similar in so many ways – history, art, architecture, food," he explains. "My wife and I made so many great friends at Clemson, the Carolinas felt like the right place for us. We found our home here."

After college, Chris worked for a healthcare consulting firm, while his wife attended graduate school. In this role, he traveled throughout the country advising healthcare organizations on business principles to help them remain solvent in a changing environment. Upon graduation, Beth was offered a position with the College of Charleston, and the possibility of becoming a doctor became a reality – medical school at MUSC was on the horizon.

Entering medical school somewhat later in life than the average student, Chris originally entertained the idea of becoming a surgeon. After careful consideration, with his family’s needs at the forefront of that decision, he eventually landed on obstetrics and gynecology with a final leap towards maternal fetal medicine.

Through his role as a maternal fetal medicine specialist, he has once again taken on the role of providing guidance, consultation, and support. "I try to put myself in my patients’ shoes, which I truly can’t do," he explains honestly. "I have never had to deal with the choices and decisions facing them, but it is my job to sit and listen, and to provide the best advice my experience and training allows. And, regardless of the outcome of the pregnancy, I always, always follow-up and try to keep in touch no matter how much time has passed since I last saw them."

With that caring and thoughtful comment, the conversation easily turns to the Clemson Tigers, the New Orleans Saints, Harry Connick, Jr., and Mardi Gras. When asked about how he celebrated Mardi Gras growing up, he smiles and says, "We always went to the parades. In fact, last week I flew down to New Orleans to be with my family to watch my dad and brother-in-law ride in the parade." Again, his smile illustrates the essence of this man and the value he places on family. Visions of purple, gold and green beads come to mind along with jambalaya, shrimp creole, chicory coffee, and all the wonders that New Orleans has to offer. One of those wonders is Chris Goodier – who by the way is not boring at all.

For more information about Christopher Goodier. M.D., or to schedule an appointment in Charleston or North Charleston, visit MUSC Health Women's Health or call 843-876-0880 or 843-876-1200.