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Beyond the White Coat

Profiles of our Women's Health Providers
Keyword: womens-health

Meet Dr. Steven Swift
Dr. Steven Swift and wife in Italy
Dr. Swift and wife Alisa in Sienna, Italy. 

One might think of Leonardo DaVinci as the quintessential renaissance man – master of art, engineer, and anatomy expert –the list goes on and on. But we don’t have to travel back in time or all the way to Italy to find our DaVinci-like renaissance man at the  Medical University of South Carolina. To meet that person,  just travel to the sixth floor of the clinical sciences building at MUSC and there you will discover professor, surgeon, oenophile, sports enthusiast, father, husband, chef, carpenter – our very own renaissance man, Steven Swift, M.D., board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, and in female pelvic medicine & reconstructive surgery, Dr. Swift speaks very proudly, yet humbly of his many interests and talents.

“I love creating and I think that my passion for cooking, woodworking, and being a surgeon are interestingly similar when you think about creativity,” he says. “There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end in any project-and in each of these situations I use creativity to adapt to each individual project. Creativity comes into play when I think about the result I am trying to achieve. Most importantly, when treating my patients, I adapt the therapy or the treatment to what my patients want, expect, or need to make their lives better. It’s truly about quality of life and because each patient is different, I have to treat each situation differently. This is where creativity in medicine comes into play.”

Laughing, he continues. “That’s why I started building furniture. I had to creatively come up with a place to keep our clothes.” When asked to explain, he continued on to describe the experience that prompted that first piece of  woodworking. “I was a second year medical student with a wife, little money, living in a small apartment in an old house with no closets. We couldn’t afford to buy an armoire, so I decided to build one.” Laughing again he added, “We still have that armoire. It’s in our garage and we keep our sporting equipment in it.”

When not treating patients or building his next piece of furniture, Steven loves to travel to different regions throughout the world that offer great cuisine, great wine and great vistas. Italy floated to the top as one of his favorite places as he described his take on Italian wines and food. “When I think of Italian food I think of pasta, loud and boisterous crowds, and deep, rich wines.” When asked about his favorite Italian restaurants in Charleston he quickly listed Al-di-la in West Ashley, Pane E Vino in downtown, and La Pizzeria in Mt. Pleasant. “The restaurant doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be good.” An avid fan of Italy, he and his entire family plan to visit the medieval village of Soave in Northern Italy where they grow the very special Gargenega grapes for a particular style of white wine. He looks forward to the trip and to spending time with his wife, three adult children and their significant others.

Family for Steven includes his wife of thirty-three years, two sons, and a daughter. He proudly points out each of them positioned on top of the desk he built himself, the bookshelves and the walls. The myriad pictures of his family from across the globe brighten his office as does the smile on his face when he speaks of each of them with pride.   

The conversation continues and eventually lands on the topic of his work and his patients. “While I love cooking and traveling and building things, I am really most satisfied when a patient says ‘thank you’ for fixing me,” Steven states with satisfaction. “While much of what I do is not life-threatening, I know that I can improve the quality of life for the women who put their trust in me,” he continues. “It’s my job to listen to each and every woman who comes to me. And, in that process, I want them to know how together we will overcome their particular issue.” When asked what his patients might say about him, he laughs and says, “They almost always ask me where my bowtie is when I see them just before surgery. I always wear a bowtie when I see my patients in the office, but you just can’t wear a bowtie with surgical scrubs,” he laughs. 

A renaissance man in a bowtie? Why not? It is Charleston, South Carolina after all.

For more information about Dr. Swift or to make an appointment call 843-792-5300 or visit Women's Health at MUSC.

“Head-to-Head with Bobby Flay”

The popularity of cooking shows in recent years has spurred men and women alike to create, design and experiment with many different food groups, flavors, and ethnic cuisines. This has never been more evident than in Charleston, SC where the city thrives on its reputation as a “foodie haven.” Yet, it is not along upper and lower King Street where numerous eateries exist, that a most famous chef of Charleston practices her trade. Ashlyn Savage, an OB-GYN extraordinaire, mother, wife and semi-celebrity chef practices her culinary trade in a quiet, family-friendly neighborhood at the end of a cul-de-sac on the Ashley River. This is where the “Queen of Dip” lives.

Dr. Savage and family
Ashlyn Savage and her family on vacation.

“I love to cook,” states Ashlyn Savage, an OB-GYN at MUSC Health who is more often recognized as a popular, and highly respected physician of women, rather than a “top chef” of local fame. “If I do anything for myself, it is cooking. I love to experiment with recipes and ethnic foods, and gather with other friends and families in our close-knit neighborhood where roving, impromptu parties are frequent.” 

“We have nomadic-like parties in the neighborhood moving from house to house on any given night. We also hold contests, with a theme of course, to see who can bring on the best and compete to win a prize or a new title. As part of the contest, you might have to cook a dish that includes a tomato, or collards, or any other random ingredient,” she goes on to explain. “We’ve had a Rib King, a Collards Queen, and I am the Dip Queen,” she laughs. “I won with an artichoke dip, but my best is my 7-layer Mexican dip.”

While cooking and spending time with family and friends is important, most of her days are filled with the responsibility of taking care of women of the low country. Together with her husband, also a physician, the two left the sun-filled days of Charleston for four years of cold and snow in Pittsburgh to complete their residencies. Despite the cold, Pittsburgh proved to be “an easy town to live in,” and they came away with fond memories of the “City of Bridges.”

After moving back to Charleston, another city of bridges, Ashlyn continued her medical career as one of the first female, general OB-GYN’s on staff at MUSC. While she considers herself an “academic generalist” who is involved in clinical care, teaching and research, she describes herself as “more of a teacher than a researcher.” 

“My involvement with learners is that it helps keep me current and is a reminder of how I ended up where I am today.” Ashlyn’s sense of pride in her work at MUSC Health is clearly evident in her voice as she shares her experiences about involvement with women and their families.

“My life is centered on my family, as well as my patients’ families. During a pregnancy, I get to know the whole family, because everyone is involved and by the end of the pregnancy I frequently have met everyone—grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles. It’s not always just the expectant parents who come to hear the heartbeat for the first time—it’s the family. Having a baby is a major life moment, and I cherish that hugely rewarding part of being the OB-GYN for the mom and her entire family.”

Work aside, Ashlyn is also a mother of two boys, aged eight and nine, who keep her busy with the fantasies and realities of football, hockey and baseball. Still huge fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins and Pirates, and other sports teams, the family often chooses to celebrate life events with tickets to sporting events rather than gifts. “We travel instead of buying a thing,” she explains. “Something the entire family can enjoy.” Laughing quietly, she adds, “We still have yet to make it to a Pittsburgh Penguins’ game, but it’s on the list.”

When looking around Ashlyn’s office at photos of her family, posters and art from the special places the family has traveled, and other mementos, you get a sense of a woman who is comfortable, confident and content. She likes being an OB-GYN generalist, she likes being a teacher, she likes being a mom and wife, and she likes being a chef—and her patients more than just “like her” in return. When you hear the admiration and praise from patients, colleagues and her family, we know that with this kind of resume and her knack for creating those “magic moments” for all families, Ashlyn Savage can take on Bobby Flay any day!

Learn more about Women's Health at MUSC Health.