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Famed Lincolnton physician retires

Jaclyn Anthony / Lincoln Times-News Dr. Chang at Carolinas Medical Center in Lincolnton.

JENNA-LEY HARRISON

Staff Writer

Over the last three decades, one local doctor estimated that he has encountered more than 35,000 patients and delivered more than 7,500 babies.

“I actually lost count,” Dr. John Chang said laughingly.

Recently retired from the medical field, he sat down with the Lincoln Times-News on Tuesday to share some of his most memorable career moments, including delivering multiple sets of twins in a short period of time on more than one occasion.

A native of Taiwan, the Lincolnton resident, who moved to the area during the 1970s, attended medical school at Kaohsiung Medical University in his home country before accepting a residency role in Baltimore, Md., he said.

Chang completed a 15-year stint in the Mason-Dixon line’s dividing state, including additional specialized training for obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) that included work at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Surprisingly, his first career choice was not medicine.

Chang revealed how he initially had plans to enter the art world and become an architect.

“I was always drawing since middle school,” he said.

With a love and knack for painting since early childhood, competing in a number of art contests, he changed his mind about his future job path just before entering medical school, wanting to fill a more people-oriented lot in life.

“With becoming a physician, I’ve had more direct service with people (than architecture),” he said.

As to what prompted his decision to specialize in OB/GYN?

Chang felt the line of work had a more feel-good nature than other doctor roles.

“Because (childbirth) is the happiest moment in the hospital,” he said.

Now, with a large portion of staff at Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln serving as his former patients, along with numerous other residents around town, Chang seems to be a local celebrity.

He met with nothing but smiles and warm greetings from hospital friends Tuesday as he maneuvered throughout the facility, just two months after retiring from there.

“I almost cannot go to any store without people recognizing me,” he said.

Prior to seeing patients at CMC-Lincoln, following its 2010 opening, the Lincolnton doctor worked at the city’s old hospital location on Gamble Drive and the now-defunct Crowell Memorial Hospital on South Aspen Street, he said.

Of the thousands of babies Chang has helped usher into the world during his 30-year career, he noted 1,500 of them have been second-generation deliveries — children of past babies he’s delivered.

Perhaps, Chang is most remembered for the local and national publicity he received on two separate occasions during the 1980s when he delivered five sets of twins over a 4-week period followed by a similar experience less than two years later involving the delivery of three twin sets across a three-day stretch.

“I delivered two (babies) on a Friday, two on a Saturday and two on Sunday,” he said.

The Associated Press even picked up the information surrounding his first encounter with consecutive twin births, after a story printed in the Lincoln Times-News.

Word of the births topped international headlines after Chang said a German news outlet published the details.

During that same decade, the doctor also experienced a rare increase in birth numbers in the area, encountering, at one point, 50 in one month alone — nearly 20 deliveries more than an average birth month, he noted.

During his time in the area, including 20 years as the county hospital’s Chief of Obstetrics, Chang maintained an office at Lincoln Obstetrics & Gynecology. He said he also simultaneously served 14 years on staff at Gaston Memorial Hospital, often driving back and forth between the two medical facilities each day.

Since retiring, all of his patients and their records have been transferred to physicians with Lincoln Medical Plaza, located on McAlister Drive, CMC-Lincoln officials said.

While Chang retired on Nov. 1, he returned to the hospital on Dec. 11 for a special honorary event, where the hospital board presented him with an appreciation award for his medical service.

He could not have been more grateful for each and every co-worker and staff member he engaged with on a daily basis throughout the years.

“I appreciate the support of the community and the staff of hospital employees,” he said.

Former co-worker and labor and delivery nurse Barbara Ballard, who works in CMC-Lincoln’s New Beginnings Birthing Center, had no doubt she and other nurses on the wing would greatly miss Chang and his prompt, prepared work ethic.

“We will miss knowing what he was going to do,” she said. “He was predictable.”

Ballard also characterized the OB/GYN doctor as “efficient” and “talented.”

“I never had to worry about his patients,” she said. “He was a very talented surgeon.”

In addition to being the topic of world conversation at one point for his experience with twin births, Chang said he frequently found himself delivering babies inside the emergency room entrance at each location he worked.

Though the average person might consider the setting to be a rare and unconventional birthing atmosphere, Chang said he and other doctors often delivered babies there over the years.

However, two particular incidents remain forever marked in his mind — events that proved most dramatic for him and other medical officials involved.

First, Chang reflected on a pregnant cardiac arrest patient who, less than 10 minutes after entering the hospital, slipped into a coma, he said, forcing him to make a life-changing decision to carry out an emergency C-section on her.

With no time to adequately prepare for the surgery, he used a plastic scalpel for the process.

Chang’s eyes opened wider as he spilled the details of a second shocking memory — the day in surgery when a woman prepared to have a hysterectomy yanked out all the needles and other medical apparatus attached to her body.

However, her ranting and raving didn’t end there.

Chang said she jumped up on the area where she had been lying and yelled out her boyfriend’s name, calling him to come get her.

As a result, the patient left the hospital that day without having surgery.

With a number of medical stories and experiences now left solely in his past, Chang looks forward to spending time in his new, more relaxed season of life, catching up on his favorite hobbies.

In addition to studying mechanics and working on his car, he anticipates hitting the golf greens more often and taking more time to play with his six-channel remote-control helicopter.

More importantly, Chang is set on reconnecting with his first love — painting — and visiting with his aging parent overseas.

He spent a handful of days last month in Taiwan visiting his 98-year-old mother and 100-year-old father.

“They need me more than my vocation needs me,” he said.

 

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