Dr. “Tina” Gwozdz and a genealogy to live by

Beaufort County School District’s Board of Trustees Chair Christina S. Gwozdz, M.D.
Beaufort County School District’s Board of Trustees Chair Christina S. Gwozdz, M.D.

There is a maxim of medicine which states, “Before you examine the body of a patient, be patient to learn their story.” In the case of Beaufort County School District’s Board of Trustees Chair Christina S. Gwozdz, M.D., it is a story of a third and soon to be fourth generation of family members working to restore, enhance and prolong the lives of others.

Once upon a time, Harold, M.D. and Elise Brecker Williams (a 1918 graduate of Boston University) begat Anne Williams Van Lonkhuyzen, J.D., who married Maurice Van Lonkhuyzen, M.D., who begat two doctors and two attorneys, one of whom was Christina “Tina” Gwozdz, M.D., who married Glenn Gwozdz, M.D.

From this union came Andrew, Will and Thomas, all of whom graduated from Bluffton High School before earning engineering degrees from Princeton University. Will is now enrolled in medical school.

Dr. Gwozdz hails from a long line of physicians, including general practitioners and an ophthalmologist, while she and her husband serve as an otolaryngologist and a gastroenterologist, respectively. There are also quite a few attorneys in the mix.

“My family, my parents and my grandparents really stressed the importance of education and choosing a profession,” said Dr. Gwozdz. “I was raised to value high-quality education, and I decided at a young age that I wanted to be a physician.”

Riding along with her grandfather on house calls when he was the physician for mill workers in Whitinsville, Mass., further solidified her aspirations, which ultimately led her to Cornell University Medical College. Dr. Gwozdz and her husband met as classmates in medical school and relocated to Hilton Head Island after their nuptials.

“We decided to move South and have been in Hilton Head (since) 1989, after we finished our respective training programs,” said Dr. Gwozdz. “Job opportunity is really why we came here. I went out on my own – solo practice – and he joined a fellow in his specialty.”

For the past 35 years, from 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., Gwozdz’s office has served countless patients who live as far away as Florida and Georgia and those who are just a stone’s throw away.

Gwozdz, whose 97-year-old mother lives with her, said just as she enjoys caring for her mother, she enjoys caring for her tenured patients.

“A lot of patients have stayed with me for decades and I still see them as patients,” she said. “Now, I am operating on the next generation or even the grandchildren of somebody I treated in the past.”

Things have come full circle for Dr. Gwozdz in practice and within her family.

“When I was raising my boys, I decided to open my office earlier in the day and close it earlier in the afternoon to avoid the typical commuting hours, allowing me to be home in the afternoon with my kids,” said Dr. Gwozdz.

Her husband made similar concessions for the sake of the family and the dividends have paid off.

“We (she and her husband) kind of balanced it (the responsibilities) out a little bit,” said Gwozdz. “We were very encouraged to get a fine education. We instilled that in our boys and hopefully, they will instill it in their children.”

The couple is expecting their first grandchild this summer.

Dr. Gwozdz credits her service as a physician with shaping who she is as a school board member and having influenced who she is in her personal life.

“Interacting with all walks of life has made (me better) as a school board member and now chair for a number of years. It is good preparation,” she said. “As a physician, you have to be professional, ethical, courteous and respectful.”