by Ashley Barker
David Soper, M.D., the
J. Marion Sims professor of obstetrics and
gynecology, was in the United States Navy
Medical Corp for 10 years, reaching the
rank of commander prior to starting his
academic medical career.
He joined the Navy in
1972 in order to pay for medical school at
the University of Miami. After completing
his residency in San Diego, Calif., Soper,
along with his wife and two sons, was
eventually stationed at Subic Bay,
Republic of the Philippines, for two
David Soper, right, reached the rank of
commander in the United States Navy
before he joined the MUSC staff in 1996.
He will be thinking about the servicemen
and their wives, whom he took care of
while stationed in the Philippines, on
Veterans Day. Soper also is vice
chairman for clinical affairs at MUSC.
To watch a video on Soper, visit http://bit.ly/MUSC_DrSoper.
"I had always been
committed to an academic medical career,
but I was struggling to find a niche. I
liked it all. I liked delivering babies
and performing gynecological surgery,
making the choice of sub-specializing in
either obstetrics or gynecologic cancer
untenable. It was at this time I visited
the St. Lazarus Hospital in Manila."
The hospital was full
of patients with Third World diseases
including tuberculosis, malaria and
tetanus. Iron lungs were still being used.
This started his fascination with
infectious diseases, and he decided to
apply for an adult infectious disease
Initially, the Navy
didn't want to assign an OB-GYN doctor to
what was an internal medicine fellowship.
It took a pivotal decision by then Rear
Admiral Fran Shea, director of the Navy's
Health Science Education and Training
Command, to allow the additional training.
"It almost chokes me up," he said. "She
was able to recognize the possibilities
and give me that unique opportunity. I'll
never forget her."
Soper is one of a few
OB-GYN doctors in the country with formal
infectious disease training, and he now
directs his own reproductive infectious
"I really loved being a
medical officer in the Navy," he said. "I
would have stayed in the Navy for 20 years
if I could have been more supported in my
academic pursuits, research and
After 10 years in the
military, Soper decided to leave the Navy
and join the civilian ranks in an academic
institution. He spent 10 years at the
Medical College of Virginia before moving
to MUSC in 1996.
"We take care of
patients here in the Lowcountry that have
husbands who are serving in Afghanistan or
deployed on Navy ships," he said. "It
impacts everything they do from normal
family life to planning a pregnancy to
On Veterans Day, Soper
said he will be thinking about those
servicemen. "My family has a familiar
respect for those who serve in the
military and an appreciation for the
sacrifices they make," he said. "Veterans
Day helps us remember those who have given
the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we
enjoy in this country."