MUSC women share stories of inspiration for International Women's Day 2015

“If society will not admit of a woman’s free development, then society must be remodeled.”
~Elizabeth Blackwell - the first woman to become a medical doctor in the US

International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world on March 8 to increase awareness for women’s equality; promote women in senior leadership roles; increase representation of women in the arts, sports, sciences, engineering, and technology; and promote growth for women-owned businesses across the globe.  This year’s theme for International Women’s Day 2015 is Make it Happen. Mothers, sister, aunts and grandmothers make it happen every day, and their work can—one way or another—be attributed much of the good in the world. The make it happen attitude has accounted for many advances in science, technology, management, etc. 

Just at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), women have made major marks on scientific and medical history. MUSC has a website devoted to highlighting the lives of various women throughout the university’s history. Click here to browse:

MUSC Center for Global Health is bringing attention to International Women’s Day 2015 to honor women and those who champion women’s rights by sharing brief stories and statements from women across MUSC’s campus. This is what they said:

Sarah Logan, PhD, MSCR
Postdoctoral Scholar
Department of Healthcare Leadership and Management
College of Health Professions 

I’m a scientist. I study patterns of behavior and disorder. I've picked up on a few patterns in life, and it’s everyone’s game. Don’t play alone. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. You can pursue success, but you create happiness. This I learned from the love of my life. 

Granted clever quotes may not change your life, but at the right time, the right piece of advice may turn your day around. Life will never present a challenge greater than the strength within you is what I learned when I became a teenage mother in the 90s. Sometimes you get the honey, and sometimes you get the sting. That is what I learned when my son was diagnosed with autism.

Persistence prevails when all else fails. It takes courage, commitment, and energy to direct your own life. That is what I’ve learned most of all. I’m an epidemiologist. We make predictions. The best way to predict your future is to create it. Make it happen.

Theresa Cantu
PhD student
College of Graduate Studies 

During my undergraduate career, I worked for several years in a biomedical research lab studying the toxicity of anthrax in certain cell lines. While I found this incredibly fascinating, I longed for a career that put me into the natural world because of my passion for outdoors and wildlife. Driven by this passion, I researched ways to incorporate biomedical research and marine/environmental biology.

To my delight, I landed an internship at a Marine laboratory in the National Science Foundation REU program. There, I met wonderful woman scientists and studied under Dr. Cathy Walsh in the shark immunology lab. I was also fortunate enough to meet my inspiration, Dr. Eugene Clark (aka the Shark Lady), at this internship as well and this was amazing because she was an inspiration to women field biologists trying to break into a mostly male dominated field. This internship energized me to follow my passions and so I applied to the MUSC marine biomedicine program. In this PhD program, I was fortunate enough to land in Dr. Louis Guillette's lab.

My career so far is a direct product of the wonderful mentors I have had, both in strong women scientists that I worked under, and my PhD mentor, who is also an advocate for women in science. I would not be where I am without their support and guidance, and I hope to mentor many young scientists in my future career in researching how the environment affects human health.

Hainan Lang, MD, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
College of Medicine

I am very fortunate to have a job I love and am empowered to complete daily. I am also very fortunate to have many great mentors and colleagues, excellent students and a supportive family.  They have helped and encouraged me to pursue my dream and become a good scientist. 


Jennifer Winchester
Director, Institutional and Community Partnerships
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
College of Medicine

Looking back at where I grew up, it wouldn’t seem as though I was set up for much success at an institution such as MUSC. I was raised in rural, Upstate New York, four miles outside of a one-stop light town. My graduating class had approximately 50 students. It was a beautiful, but overlooked, part of the state. I was fortunate to have incredibly hard working and dedicated parents, and it’s because of their leadership and devotion that I’ve grown into the professional woman I am today.

I think my move to Charleston shocked my friends and family – I was getting away and I had bigger dreams. Of course, the first year was tough and I considered going back home. With everything I got involved in here, though, I began to realize that my tiny town would always be home but this was my future. My eight years at MUSC has connected me beyond all of my expectations.

My Master’s training prepared me for the mental health field and dealing with all kinds of patients, supporters, stakeholders, etc., but the real world experience I’ve received in my positions at MUSC is priceless. I am constantly amazed at the level of expertise we have here, and I am proud to say “I know that guy” or “I work with her”! Being an MUSC employee has given me the opportunity to meet those esteemed researchers and clinicians and to interact with them at all levels. I am not an M.D. or a Ph.D., but I am an integral part of what we do here – and I’m beyond satisfied with that.

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”
~Albert Einstein

Susan Linn
Second year medical student
College of Medicine

If an unexpected yet extraordinary opportunity presents itself to you, take it. If it diverges from your plan, don't worry, this is your new plan. More often than not, the most life changing experiences present themselves when we don't plan them, and we least expect them. All we need is the courage to accept them.

For me, I left a promising and secure job to become a marine biology researcher living among the polar bears and Inuit people far north of the Arctic Circle. At the time, I didn't know where this opportunity would take, but I took it anyway. And at the end, I did not leave my research position with a passion for research, but instead, I left with a passion to pursue medicine and to serve the disenfranchised. And for this, I will always be grateful.

Cynthia Swenson, PhD
Family Services Research Center
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
College of Medicine

My life's work has been developing and testing treatment models for families experiencing serious clinical needs on a global level. I look back on what helped me rise from growing up in a poverty situation to accomplishing significant career goals:

1.       Finding and listening to a good mentor
2.       Listening to people who receive services and nonacademic folks who have great ideas that are based on life experience and incorporating those lessons into my work
3.       Always maintaining a focus on the scientific evidence and being up-to-date on the evidence base
4.       Unwavering determination to create opportunities for myself and others
5.       Daily work to stay humble and generous in my academic setting and personal life
6.       Asking myself in everything I do, “are you making a difference?” If the answer is no, then I change course.