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Marine biologist remembered for love of life

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations
Meagan A.M. Mollenhauer, Ph.D., a 2009 MUSC alumnus, marine biologist and former postdoctoral fellow working in the Division of Rheumatology & Immunology died from complications from cancer Dec. 10. She was 31 years old.
Dr. Meagan Mollenhauer, left, with Division of Rheumatology & Immunology's Carol Kravetz at a division celebration party in July 2009.
Mollenhauer, a native of Dallas, earned her undergraduate degree in 2000 from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree from Southern Mississippi before joining and graduating from MUSC’s Molecular, Cellular, Biology and Pathobiology Program. She received her doctorate in biomedical research last May. Previously, Mollenhauer worked as a graduate research assistant in Gary Gilkeson’s, M.D.,  laboratory and the lupus group as a full-time fellow since July continuing her work investigating the immune system in bottle nose dolphins. She also was recognized for her foundational work and contributions to an R21 research grant for Diane Kamen, M.D., Division of Rheumatology & Immunology, for evaluating pollutants in local estuaries and autoimmunity.
She also valued teaching and educating others. Mollenhauer was recognized for her work with an American Association for the Advancement of Science/Science Program for Excellence in Science Award and other teaching fellowships with the National Science Foundation.
Throughout her life, Mollenhauer stayed committed to her dedication to studying science, marine biology and advances in medical science through marine biology investigation and other volunteer work in Charleston, Mississippi, Alaska and Texas.
She is survived by husband, Jeff, and daughter Ava, 1 year old. In lieu of flowers, the family has set up a college fund for Ava in her mother’s honor. Donations can be made to: Future Scholar, Ava K. Mollenhauer (Jeff Mollenhauer), 1308 Teal Avenue, Charleston, S.C., 29412.
A memorial service is being planned in Mollenhauer’s honor at 2 p.m., Jan. 24, James Island County Park on James Island. Contact

“The very first time I met Meagan, I remember I was struck immediately by how warm and friendly she was. In the all too brief time since then, I quickly came to realize her sharp intelligence, her natural curiosity and quick wit. She was passionate about her work, her wonderful husband, Jeff, and adorable baby, Ava. It was a pleasure and delight to be in her company. Even when diagnosed with a terrible disease, she retained her wit and humor. I don’t wish I had known her better, I just wished I had known her longer. Meagan will always be remembered.”
—Carol Kravetz, administrative specialist, Division of Rheumatology & Immunology

“I felt immediately comfortable around Meagan. She was the kind of person you meet and instantly hope will become your lifelong friend. She was sarcastic and hilarious and she made me laugh (a lot) every day. Even in the face of all she was dealing with, she found a way to entertain us with her great sense of humor. All of this, and her insightful nature, reflected an inner strength I cannot comprehend. We will miss her enormously and will never forget her.”
—Melissa Cunningham, M.D., Ph.D., Division of Rheumatology& Immunology fellow

“Meagan was such a wonderful person. When she entered a room, she always brought joy and laughter with her. We were always so excited when she came in and would find ourselves laughing so hard at anything and everything. She had an ability to make everyone feel so comfortable. She always offered great advice, especially with questions I encountered during my research project. Meagan was such an inspiration to me. She was always encouraging others while battling cancer, which made me evaluate my attitude towards situations I encountered. Through Meagan, I understand that the situation is not nearly as important as my attitude. If Meagan was able to endure so much with a great attitude at least I can do the same to show my appreciation and gratitude.”
—Deanna Baker, 4th year Medical Scientist Training Program student, College of Graduate Studies

“We all look upon Meagan’s life with us feeling a sense of gratitude for what she gave to us all. She was always a bright light in the lab. I could always tell when she was in the fellows’ room next to my office by the joviality of those within. Her positive outlook, smile and laugh were infectious and made us more ready to face the world with a similar outlook ourselves. Baby Ava, take this lesson from your mother to heart. “Paying it forward” with a smile betters the world around you and provides you the warmth you need to move forward yourself.”
—Jim Oates, M.D., associate professor, Division of Rheumatology & Immunology

“I have tried to write down my thoughts and feelings for Meagan several times, but find it hard to put into words just how wonderful she was. Not to mention the pain of not understanding how we could have lost her so soon. She was a creative, intelligent, sensitive, and funny person that courageously smiled her way through each day. Even as her cancer progressed so rapidly her sense of humor and courage prevailed. I would cry and laugh at every journal entry on the CaringBridge Web site. She was a bounding ball of energy and light that would just fill the room. My heart still aches as I think of Meagan each night when I have the privilege of kissing my daughter good night. My thoughts and prayers go to her family and friends.”
—Sue Cwik, business manager, Division of Rheumatology & Immunology

“I will remember Meagan most for the way she faced problems/adversity, with determination and humor. She possessed the honesty, intelligence, positive attitude and wit that caused a great many people to gravitate to her. I am grateful to have had the pleasure of interacting with her professionally and personally. Meagan will be sorely missed by many.”
—Tammy Nowling, Ph.D., assistant professor, Division of Rheumatology & Immunology

“Meagan was one of those people that you consider yourself lucky to have known.  She was able to mix a laid back fun loving personality with a strong work ethic to accomplish her goals in life.  She had multiple roadblocks to achieve the success that she did.  She approached all these roadblocks and her cancer with an upbeat attitude.  As others have stated she had a strength and power from within that is not present in many.   She helped us to cope with her cancer more than we helped her.  She will be greatly missed.”
—Gary S. Gilkeson, M.D., professor of medicine, Division of Rheutamology & Immunology and vice chairman, Department of Medicine for Research

Friday, Jan. 8, 2010

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