My Dude OBGYNs, In Vignettes

Yesterday I listened to a podcast episode about pelvic health, inspired by the uneasy experiences some women have had with their gynecologists. They advocated and featured nurse-midwives, who tend to be more feminist, holistic and just badass ladies. As someone who birthed all three children with midwives, I totally agree they are awesome. Midwives should be considered as a go-to option for regular exams whether you want/have children or not. But I’m also quite cool with my dude OBGYNS.

Three of my dude lady-part docs stand out in particular, mainly because I shared some unconventional experiences with them. The experiences are not graphic, they’re just … unique.

Dr. Katz

While on a semester-long break from the University of Missouri, I went to live in Houston with my mom, who was diplomating down there at the time. To occupy myself, I took a rather irregular schedule of classes at U of H and trained for a marathon. I also decided to work a side job as the front-desk check-in girl at the 24 Hour Fitness at San Felipe and Voss, mainly just to get a free gym membership.* What I remember about that time in my life is eating a lot of Whataburger (same intersection) and working alongside a few real roided-out sales guys who liked to guess womens’ weight when they came in.

Every morning, a genial, portly, tan, white-haired guy checked in to ride the recumbent bicycle for a good 45 minutes before maybe lifting some weights, showering and going to work. Since he was a regular, we began chatting and eventually I learned he was a well-known lady doc in H-town. As I had grown up in Dallas, I didn’t have a gynecologist in Houston. So I decided, hey, Dr. Katz is cool, I’ll make an appointment! And that’s how he became my practitioner as well as a gym buddy with whom I’d ride recumbent bikes on occasion. He’s stuck in my memory because we spent the morning of September 11 together. After a marathon training run at Memorial Park, I went to the gym to cool down by riding the bike while watching TV with Dr. Katz. That’s when we saw the plane hit the first tower.

Dr. Hugh

My two years as a reporter in upstate South Carolina (the foothills of Appalachia) felt far more like foreign correspondence than being out here in East Asia. I was exposed to more absurd, utterly unfamiliar situations than I was able to fully appreciate at the time.

This place was the buckle of the Bible belt, home to Bob Jones University (where women are still not allowed to wear pants) and the only place I’ve ever witnessed a KKK cross burning. While in Spartanburg, I went to a family physician for birth control, which should be noncontroversial, but Dr. Sanctimonious told me he was proud of the fact that he did not prescribe birth control because he didn’t believe in it, his faith guided him and la la la la. This surprised me but not that much, and instead of reporting him I just found an actual OBGYN, whose first name was Hugh. I’ll call him Dr. Hugh. He spoke softly and also had white hair, but unlike Katz, was thin and wiry. He was very sweet, like a southern Mr. Rogers.

I started seeing him during a time I was single. I remember this because right after the pelvic exam, while I was still in those gyno table stirrups, he whirled around and ASKED ME IF I WAS SINGLE, as he had a young medical resident that he really wanted to introduce me to. (To this day, I still wonder what it is that he saw down there that made him think, I should play matchmaker!) Two weeks later, when the hospital sent me my pap smear results, Dr. Hugh had handwritten a message on it. It said something like, “Turns out the resident I told you about is actually engaged! So sorry.”

Dr. Chung

Dr. Chung helped deliver Isa and Luna, our two girls born in South Korea. He’s a Korean who speaks pretty good English, as he caters to a lot of Western clients and is an advocate of natural birth, which is rare and perhaps considered a little hippie-ish among South Koreans. He is so chill that he barely examined me throughout my two pregnancies here. But he has a knack for saying and doing things that would definitely be considered inappropriate in Western medical settings. Like when I ran into him six weeks after birthing Luna in the packed waiting room of his practice and he started in on how smoothly my birth went. In front of everyone, he goes, “When she came out, didn’t it feel like an orgasm to you? It’s orgasmic, right?” I stood in silence for a few beats, trying not to acknowledge the roomful of people around us, and said something about how it certainly was a relief to deliver a healthy baby. (BUT THE ANSWER IS NO.)

A few weeks later, my assistant and I were nervously sitting at one of those processing windows at the Seoul Immigration Office, where I was applying for an Alien Registration Card for Luna. The issue at the immigration office is even though its clients are not Korean, the staff there barely speak any English. And it’s bureaucracy-laden. So between the lack of language and the layers of paperwork, I almost always get rejected there the first time I try to apply for registration or renewal. It was going to happen again, when Dr. Chung saved me! The rather stern lady at our window was going over our papers and noticed Luna’s birth certificate from the birthing clinic and immediately softened.

“Oh, I also gave birth at the same center,” she told us. “Wow,” I said. “Did you have Dr. Chung? He’s great, right? Very chill.”

“And very handsome,” she says, with no expression.** (Assistant Jihye had to translate this, with a chuckle.) The immigration officer approved Luna’s registration.

In conclusion, I barely know these guys but in some ways they know me quite well. And I’m grateful for each for taking good care of me, being a friend to the extent a doctor is a friend, and for the, uh, memories.

*This was my second job at a gym. In high school I did a stint as the smoothie girl at the Q Fitness Club in Plano, where I would get $20 tips for making $3 smoothies, so, clearly I was led to believe working at gyms was lucrative.

** Dr. Chung himself once told me he was considered very good-looking in Korea, which was helped by his height. I’m gonna say he’s about 6’2″.

Food for Thought Fed My Soul When I Needed It Most

lunch under this amazing pavilion included shrimp and grits, of course.
Lunch under this amazing pavilion included shrimp and grits, of course.

After last week’s total misery, I needed to get away. So this year’s Food for Thought Conference in my old stomping grounds of Greenville, SC, couldn’t have come at a better time.

My old source and good friend, Joe Erwin, heads an advertising firm in Greenville that started with three employees and has since grown into a thriving agency with major clients, hundreds of staffers and satellite offices in New York and Detroit. A few years ago he got a notion to host a retreat where people across several different fields — entrepreneurship, marketing, communication, philanthropy and more — could come together in his beloved hometown and hear from inspiring people, interact with business leaders, share ideas and do it a.) anywhere but in over-air-conditioned hotel conference rooms and b.) while enjoying memorable meals.

“It comes from the Bible, in which King David talks about being ‘at table,'” Erwin said, as he got the conference under way on in an airy bar overlooking the Reedy River. “It’s when we’re at table that we let our defenses down and do some of our best thinking.”

I was already satisfied that I got to meet interesting people, get exposed to new ideas and move from one interesting physical space to another (the FFT conference has a no hotel conference room rule). But it all the serendipitous meetings “at tables” of delicious food that made this experience stand out.

Greenville is a smallish city but thanks to the strong influence of Southern food culture, it has more delicious restaurants than places many times its size. On opening night, the attendees got broken up into groups of 10 so that each group could go enjoy a different notable Greenville restaurant in an intimate setting. My group was lucky enough to dine in a special apartment above the restaurant Soby’s, where the chef from Greenville restaurant Devereaux’s cooked up a five course meal in the private kitchen. Seated next to Joe and across from Southwest Airlines’ thoughtful marketing man, Dave Ridley, we chatted and laughed about our past experiences, our families and our passions. Sharing a meal fosters such fast, authentic connections — the conference nurtures that notion to exciting ends.

chef chris hastings and sous chef sadesh in the kitchen of greenville, sc's devereaux's restaurant.
Chef Chris Hastings and sous chef Sadesh in the kitchen of Greenville, SC’s Devereaux’s restaurant.

Perhaps I can’t stop gushing about this confab because I got the opportunity to eat grits at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I also enjoyed flavor explosions in my mouth at every meal. On the second (and my last) night, the whole group of 100 dined together at Devereaux’s, with a guest chef in the kitchen. The organizers flew in Chef Chris Hastings of Birmingham’s Hot and Hot Fish Club to cook for us. He was 2012’s James Beard Award winner for “Best Chef in the South” and dominated Bobby Flay in the sausage showdown on Iron Chef. Even if he hadn’t those accolades, the MAN CAN COOK. The meal he prepared for us last night instantly entered my top three most memorable dining experiences ever. Who knew rabbit pot pie or snapper jowl could be so delicious? Chef Hastings knew.

I had to jet before the final day, which looked amazing. But my short time was packed with highlights, including the amazing Carolina spring weather, my pre-conference catchup time with my inspiring journalist/momma pal Michelle, and becoming buddies with the COO of my ultimate favorite fast food, Taco Cabana. Todd Cuerver randomly sat at the same table at the conference lunch yesterday and I totally geeked out when I found out he was with Taco C. I had so many Taco C moments to tell him about! (Most of them involved drunkenness and flour tortillas.)

To stop the rambling and sum up: If you can make it next year, take a break from your boring lunches at Potbelly and your constant inbox grooming and get away to Greenville. Food for Thought fed my belly, but more importantly, it fed my soul when I needed it the most.

Return to the 8-6-4

Deal, Hu, Still
Assignment Editor Kim Deal, me and Andy Still. Had WYFF's then-news director Andy not given me the chance to cover the legislature and campaigns, who knows what I'd be doing today.

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Television news is inherently a team sport. Reporters are nothing without their photographer partners, and the visual stories created in the field are nothing without the teams of producers who craft them into something larger — a newscast, a series, a documentary.

One of the most high-functioning and family-like teams on which I’ve played was in my early twenties, in South Carolina. It was on that team that I was first given a chance to cover politics with regularity. And South Carolina is a place that’s shaped my perspective in indescribable ways.

I moved away five years ago after a couple memory-packed years here, and hadn’t returned until yesterday.

Yesterday would have been the 40th birthday of Chris Gulfman, a talented and reliable photographer who was an even more reliable friend. His gruff exterior masked one of the kindest hearts, a heart that is still beating somewhere, in the recipient of one of Gulfman’s many organ donations after he died suddenly half a decade ago. An undiagnosed brain tumor ruptured in his brain overnight, and more quickly than we could say aneurism, he was gone. Continue reading “Return to the 8-6-4”