Spotlight on Dr. Laura Hollinger

Laura Hollinger MD

Laura Hollinger, M.D. joined the MUSC Department of Surgery in 2017 and is medical director of the MUSC Pediatric ECMO Program at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital. 

Under Hollinger’s leadership, the Pediatric ECMO Program received the platinum-level Award for Excellence in Life Support from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization(ELSO), an international consortium of centers offering ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) for support of failing organ systems in infants, children and adults. This award is the highest attainable level of achievement an ELSO Center of Excellence can receive and is one of eight children’s hospitals in the U.S. to achieve this recognition in 2020.

“Dr. Hollinger has been an amazing addition to the MUSC Pediatric Surgery team. She is an outstanding clinician, gifted technician, provides tireless energy to her patients and teammates and is absolutely unflappable; I have never seen her without a smile on her face,” said Christian Streck, M.D., chief of Pediatric Surgery. “She is kind in the face of adversity and truly loves pediatric surgery. Her teamwork and dedication have helped to significantly elevate the quality of our ECMO program.”

Hollinger found her passion in pediatric surgery and care for critically ill infants and children during general surgery residency at Houston Methodist Hospital and fellowship training at McGovern Medical School at University of Texas Health Sciences. During general surgery residency, she first envisioned a career in vascular surgery after rotating in the DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center and spending two years conducting research at the Research Institute.

When she started her next rotation in pediatric surgery, something changed inside of her.

“It was like a lightbulb went off and I just knew this is what I was meant to do,” said Hollinger. “But fellowship training in pediatric surgery is highly competitive.” Hollinger credits her research experience during training, which involved ischemia reperfusion injury, and strong relationships with her mentors, Dr. Heitham Hassoun and Dr. Barbara Bass, then chair of the Department of Surgery, for leading her on the path towards pediatric surgery.

“Dr. Bass is a significant reason on why I chose Methodist for residency,” said Hollinger. “She is a premier academic surgeon in the United States and has held many national leadership positions, including serving as president of the American College of Surgeons.”

Hollinger credits her mentor Kevin Lally, M.D., chair of Pediatric Surgery at UT Health Sciences, as the reason why she is a pediatric surgeon.

“He taught me that there is no greater honor nor reward than taking care of a sick child, no matter the time of day or night. I remember one Saturday night we were putting a baby on ECMO and Dr. Lally looked at me and asked ‘Are you sure this is what you want to do?’ I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else on a Saturday night aside from taking care of a sick child, and I think that was the pivotal moment where I knew it was the perfect fit for me.”

Lally is Surgeon-in-Chief of the Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and the A.G. McNeese Chair in Pediatric Surgery at the McGovern Medical School. Hollinger said she is grateful for the solid foundation she received under Lally’s mentorship, which spurred her interest in ECMO and leading a team to care for a really sick patient and their family.

“It takes a village of specialists and at UT Health Sciences and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, I had the opportunity to experience how surgeons can lead an ECMO team and coordinate all of the areas that are needed to care for that patient. After graduation, I knew I wanted to work in academic medicine at a Children’s Hospital that fit my training and interests in critically ill children, ECMO, and fetal care.”

Upon graduation, Hollinger looked at many programs in the Houston area. But none were the fit she was looking for. Then she learned that the MUSC Department of Surgery was seeking a pediatric surgeon and there was significant growth in MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital fetal center and Pediatric ECMO program.

Dr. Hollinger’s training and interests were the perfect match.

“To me, there’s just nothing better on earth than to see a sick child get better,” said Hollinger. “I think that really drives me each day to do my best, and to be my best and to hold everyone to that same high standard because it’s all the unifying concept of taking care of a child.”