Dr. Donna Johnson MUSCs first female chairwoman of obstetrics and gynecology department
When Dr. Donna Johnson studied obstetrics and gynecology at the Medical University of South Carolina, she didn’t have female professors. Tremendous changes have occurred in the quarter-century since she graduated in 1987.
The Medical University of South Carolina women’s care department offers the following services:
Advanced ultrasound/gynecologic imaging
Treatment for gynecologic cancers
Care for low- and high-risk pregnancies
Minimally invasive surgery
Women’s health and wellness
For Johnson, the most significant is being named chairwoman of the school’s women’s care department. Of the eight physicians who have held the position in the institution’s various stages of development, she is the first woman.
Johnson, who serves as director of the division of maternal fetal medicine, takes over Sunday from Dr. Peter Van Dorsten, who is retiring.
Johnson was raised in Aynor, a town in Horry County that had about 500 residents when she grew up. It has about the same number now.
Johnson did her residency and a fellowship at the University of California at San Diego. She also served in other positions at the school before returning to South Carolina and joining the MUSC faculty in 1996.
Among her priorities are reducing South Carolina’s high rates of pre-term birth, infant mortality and female cancer, she says.
Providing better access to physicians for patients across the state, especially through telemedicine, remain high on her list as well.
Johnson says she trained more than 25 percent of the 36 faculty physicians in the department, which also has a half-dozen other health professionals.
While she expects to be a role model for women, the doctor does not focus too much on being the first female to lead the department.
“I am not just a woman,” she says. “I have excellent business sense and can make plans and work to move the depart- ment forward. Many people will make the assumption that I got the job because I’m a woman. They may not look at the whole package.”
Johnson says that one of the reasons she accepted the position was to build a team atmosphere.
“I have a five-year plan in my mind, but you have to build collaboration first. ... I work with brilliant people and they have their own agendas and they might have their own ideas. If I didn’t get people to buy in first, I might not be successful. Buy-in is very important.”
Dr. Ashlyn Savage, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, trained under Johnson. She describes Johnson as an amazing and humble teacher who inspires students to be patient-centered.
“Part of being a teacher is being a role model, and probably all of us who work with her wish we could be like her. She is brutally honest about your weaknesses and shortfalls because she wants to make you a better doctor or student. ... She can do that without being hurtful or being petty.”
Dr. Jill Mauldin, associate professor in the women’s care department, was a fellow and one of Johnson’s students for two years. Mauldin says that Johnson’s ability to break down complex medical concepts and make them straightforward is one of her greatest strengths. Mauldin also has worked under Johnson and describes her as a fair-minded supervisor who hears everything you say about an issue, then does what’s best for all concerned.
“I am excited and looking forward to the next few years with her,” Mauldin says. “We already have a great department, but it’s a new era. The financial aspect of health care is going to be in the forefront and changing the way we deliver health care.”