March 2023

Pediatrics Press

Peds GI Division Chief Dr. Benjamin Kuhn and Pediatric Dietician Amber Johnson consult in the hospital

Dr. Kuhn's Vision to Make Pediatric GI Division the Premiere Care Center of South Carolina

by Jennifer Ware

Unless they’re experiencing an issue, not many people think about the self-contained uniqueness of the GI tract. But it’s that aspect that drew MUSC Pediatric Gastroenterology Division Chief Dr. Benjamin Kuhn to the field in the first place. “What I find fascinating about Gastroenterology is that the entire GI tract is technically outside the body,” he says. “From your mouth to the end, it’s a hollow tube that travels throughout your body: you put into what you think you need for nutrition or hydration, and your body knows what to absorb or eliminate.”

It's this fascination and passion that’s inspired Dr. Kuhn to tirelessly work to position MUSC not only as the most comprehensive Pediatric GI and Hepatology care center in South Carolina, but one of the best in the nation.

One recent major coup: the acquisition of a Pediatric GI Motility Specialist. “When patients struggle with intestinal motility issues, the symptoms can range from being unable to eat or swallow food to difficulty with bowel movements,” says Dr. Kuhn. “When the motion of the intestines is not right, lots of problems can ensue.”

Particularly complicated cases can require the attention of a Pediatric GI Motility Specialist, which Dr. Kuhn says is a highly technical role both expertise wise as well as technology wise. “The ability to test and measure the motility or the motion of the GI tract, as well as evaluate and manage patient care and keep up with advancements year over year is incredibly valuable,” he says. “Previously there used to be a certain threshold required for patients to undergo that degree of testing and expert care, which up until now we would have had to refer out of state. There has been an unmet need for this specialty in Charleston as well as the entire state of South Carolina, and it’s amazing that we’ll be able to offer it here at MUSC.”

Dr. Kuhn is equally proud of the division’s current team of six physicians and four nurse practitioners. “Our Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, which is managed by Dr. Carmine Suppa, is top notch,” he says. “One of the emerging technologies that MUSC is an early adopter of is ultrasound to detect changes in the bowel brought on by inflammatory bowel disease. Dr. Suppa is one of the few practitioners in the state trained to be able to do so. It can be done in office during a visit and be a quick, non-painful way to evaluate someone’s disease activity.”

In addition to comprehensive general pediatric gastroenterology care, MUSC’s division also offers multidisciplinary clinics for inflammatory bowel disease, aerodigestive care, intestinal failure, eosinophilic esophagitis as well as having the only pediatric liver transplant center in South Carolina.

What makes being at the helm of such a thriving center of excellence even more of an achievement is that originally Dr. Kuhn was determined NOT to go into medicine. “I studied biology and genetics at Cornell, and after I graduated, I worked in a lab. And that’s fully what I intended on doing as a career,” he says. “But after becoming a research associate at Penn State College of Medicine, which was more clinical/patient based, I realized that there was more to this than just lab work. I went to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, then returned to Penn State Children’s Hospital for my Pediatrics residency.”

After completing his fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Dr. Kuhn landed at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. He eventually made regional director of Pediatrics, and the position’s multidisciplinary team building experience prepared him for his role as Division Chief at MUSC.

“I’m very excited to be a part of this division and MUSC as a whole. Our team continues to grow in breadth and depth of services offered, and there’s so much more on the horizon,” he says. “MUSC is an amazing children’s health system with world class care. When one division succeeds, we all succeed. And it’s our patients who benefit the most."