Dr Maria Margarita Murphy of Gastrointestinal Surgical Specialists

No 'butts' about it, the treatment of colon and rectal problems is something Dr. Maria Margarita Murphy takes very seriously. "People have come to me petrified but there is no reason to be scared or embarrassed," Murphy explains. "This is what I do, this is my life choice."

People are often uncomfortable about seeking medical help for colon or rectal problems and sometimes wait too long. Early detection, Murphy reminds us, is the key to successful treatment.

"I've even had a doctor as a patient that waited six months before coming to me," Murphy says. "It just isn't a smart move."

As a colorectal surgeon, she sees everything from hemorrhoids, constipation, rectal bleeding and cancer.

Group photo of Gastrointestinal Surgical Specialists

"Rectal bleeding is being seen more often in younger people and can be a silent killer," according to Murphy. "Also, everyone should get screening for colon cancer as it can affect men and women. Colonoscopies are simple and can save your life."

A partner with Gastrointestinal Surgical Specialists in Mt. Pleasant, Dr. Murphy has lived in the Charleston area for three years. A native of Colombia, South America, she is proud to be one of only two female colorectal surgeons in the Lowcountry. She is also married to one of her business partners and mother to her 14-month-old son Sean.

"It's hard being a mother in the medical field," Murphy says about balancing a family and career. "It is always a challenge whether to spend more time at work and make some money or stay home with our son and build that bond."

Her priorities in life have changed since her early days as a medical student.

"I held off on getting married because I had to keep my focus, so having a child was a big decision. He has definitely given me new goals in life. Our son is absolutely wonderful."

The role of mother is one she embraces.

"I thank God that my husband is so caring and understanding. He has helped by taking some of the responsibilities at work and at home. Without him and my mother living with us, it would be much more difficult."

What does it mean to Dr. Murphy to be a woman in medicine? Her answer is simple. "I can care more for my patients because I am a woman. It's a natural ability we have," adding that some patients prefer to see a doctor of his/her own gender. It gives people an option that at one time didn't exist.

"I am privileged to be a doctor. Every day it is an honor to have patients trust me."

During her residency, Murphy "always tried to be one of the boys, so to say, because I didn't want to be viewed differently even though I was the only female in the program. Now, I can't exactly hide the fact that I'm different nor do I want to."

"Young girls out there should know that being a woman doesn't make a difference. There is a need for good male and female doctors. Work hard and don't give up...you can be anything you want to be."

For more information or to set up an appointment contact Maria at Gastrointestinal Surgical Specialists, 1439 Stuart Engals Blvd., Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464, call (843) 853-7730.