Dr. Chi Dola, M.D, MPH,
One of My Toughest Cases
Associate Professor at the Tulane Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; residency program director; section chief, maternal-fetal medicine
Photographed by Craig Mulcahy
An Unborn Child with a Chromosome Condition
As an OB-GYN, Dr. Chi Dola considers it a privilege to be responsible for the care of her patients and their unborn children.
She has undoubtedly dealt with many difficult cases over the course of her 21-year career, but one in particular sticks out to her. The patient was pregnant with her first child and was referred to Dola at 18 weeks because an ultrasound exam revealed that her pregnancy showed oligohydramnios, a lack of amniotic fluid around the fetus.
“We diagnosed her with early rupture of the membranes in the early second trimester,” she recalled. “In the course of the work-up, a genetic amniocentesis [a sampling of the fluid] indicated that her baby had Turner Syndrome,” a chromosomal condition that affects females. Ovaries develop normally at first, but egg cells, aka oocytes, die prematurely and most ovarian tissue degenerates before birth. Affected girls do not undergo puberty unless they receive hormone therapy, and most are unable to conceive.
The patient accepted the news with “grace and courage,” Dola said. Her baby had a high possibility of having pulmonary hypoplasia, an incomplete development of the lungs, from early and prolonged rupture of membranes. This carries a very “grave” prognosis, according to Dola.
The patient remained on hospital bedrest until her premature delivery at 27 weeks via an emergency C-section. All through her difficult pregnancy and delivery, she remained “so pleasant to everyone.”
“She dealt with the challenges with such grace, and the word ‘fair’ was never in her vocabulary,” Dola said. “At times, it was she who made sure that I was all right, rather than the other way around.” The baby was born alive and discharged from the intensive care nursery; the patient returned two years later with a new pregnancy and updates on the first child, complete with photographs.
“I am grateful that my patients entrust the care of themselves and their unborn child to me,” Dola said. “The special bond between physician and patient is very inspiring to me.”
Specialty: OB-GYN, Subspecialty maternal-fetal medicine
Hometown: Born in Saigon, Vietnam, but considers New Orleans to be hometown
Undergraduate: Louisiana State University
Medical School: combined M.D/MPH degree from Tulane School of Medicine and Tulane School of Public Health