Vanderbilt Grad Put Down Roots in Nashville
You might just say that Charles W. Eckstein, MD, president of Nashville-based Urology Associates and on staff at Skyline Medical Center, has a real thing for black and gold.
An Iowa native, he earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Iowa, home of the Hawkeyes and their black-and-gold motif. Then he and his young wife, Carrie, were off to Nashville and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where the Commodores’ colors are black and gold, as well.
With a Vanderbilt medical degree in hand, the Ecksteins moved to Michigan for his residency in urology through the University of Michigan (colors dark blue and golden yellow … but close enough). Then it was back to Nashville to put down roots and begin a career as a urologist that has … so far … spanned three decades.
Eckstein comes from a line of physicians. He grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, where his father was dean of the UI College of Medicine for 26 years. Eckstein’s paternal grandfather was a family practitioner in Central City, Iowa.
While studying at Vanderbilt, Eckstein was mentored by Robert B. Faber, MD, who welcomed Eckstein to his two-physician urology practice in 1981. “I really enjoyed working with Bob at Vanderbilt,” Eckstein said. “When I had an opportunity to work with him again, I jumped at it.”
Faber’s three-man practice grew to six physicians. “Then we joined with Urology Associates, which was an 11-man group in 1993,” Eckstein recalled. Today, Urology Associates boast 28 urologists, 10 Nashville-area offices and 12 satellite clinics within a 100-mile radius of Nashville. He was named president of the large practice in 1998.
Urology was an easy choice for Eckstein after his rotations in med school. He enjoys the broad range of patients – young and old, men and women – and the surgical procedures that can be “very complicated and gratifying,” he said. Today, technology plays an increasingly large role in urologic surgery. “From using the robot to take out prostates, to a lithotripter to blow up stones or special scopes to look up in kidneys, we have a lot of technology in urology, which makes it very exciting,” he said. Eckstein uses the Intuitive da Vinci Surgical System at Skyline. He does a lot of prostate cancer work; thus, about 60 percent of his patients are men.
Eckstein recently completed his tenure as president and chairman of the board of the Tennessee Medical Association. “There was a lot going on. We had to deal with the Accountable Care Act, and our feelings about it and what was going on in Washington,” he said. “There was a lot going on in the American Medical Association; and actually, in the state, there continues to be challenges about how medicine is delivered and protection of patient rights. It was quite an active year, and I had a great time doing it.”
And when it comes to healthcare reform? “It’s just like everything else in the world. I think economics have come to play a large part in what we’re able to do. We have a growing population of people who need help, and who are in the older age range, because we’ve been so successful in keeping people alive,” he surmised. “The technology has grown by leaps and bounds, and the associated costs have escalated significantly, to a point where we’re not able to do other things because of the overriding cost of medical care. We have to take a hard look at how we do things and figure out how we can be efficient and effective with our resources.”
While serving as president and chairman of the board of the Nashville Academy of Medicine, Eckstein was instrumental in the founding of Nashville’s Bridges to Care Plus, which provides care to the indigent through donated physician services. It’s quite a legacy to leave. Launched in April 2005, more than 840 physicians have donated $18 million worth of care to date.
BTC Plus was established after a gap in patient care was recognized. While there were nonprofits that help with primary-care needs, specialty care was a different story. “Also the hospitals weren’t tuned in to the fact that they were giving away a lot of charity care, but it wasn’t in an organized fashion,” Eckstein recalled. Thus, he and colleagues visited Asheville, N.C., where a specialty-care strategy had been implemented, albeit on a smaller scale.
“Ours was much more complicated in that we had numerous hospitals and three different systems involved and thousands of doctors who were unaffiliated so we developed a vertically integrated care path for indigent care. … We had a growing list of specialty-care folks who would take two or three referrals a month. If you get enough doctors involved, it’s really not a great burden to provide that care, and it gives much better care to the patient,” Eckstein said. “I just thought it was a remarkable way to go, and I think we’ve been very successful through the Nashville Academy of Medicine in doing this.”
Yet another hat the doctor wears is that of clinical associate professor at Vanderbilt. Eckstein is the program director for Vanderbilt residents who rotate through Baptist Hospital.
For all his professional accomplishments, he counts building a college homecoming float as one of the most important things he’s ever done. It’s a tedious task of hammering and pomping … but perhaps not so mind-numbing if you’re in the process of falling in love. The Ecksteins met while float building and married when they were both 21. “We’re a success story. I’m still with my same wife,” Eckstein quipped.
The couple has three children. The eldest daughter is a lawyer who’s married to a surgeon in the Army. They’ve already given the Ecksteins two grandchildren and another is on the way. The second daughter is following family tradition. She is finishing a psychiatry fellowship at Mass General and is the mother of another Eckstein grandchild. Their son, who was married last year, lives in Chicago and is an accountant for a financial advisory and investment banking service.
It’s because of his son that Eckstein is such a hockey fan. “I got tired of watching T-ball out in the hot sun, and I said, ‘Andrew, if you go play hockey, I’ll come to every practice.’ He played hockey from age 6 to 18, back before there were high school teams. We bought a van and traveled around the Southeast going to hockey tournaments. We were so happy when the Preds came to town.”
Carrie is a retired speech pathologist and audiologist. One of her top jobs today is “making sure I continue to function effectively,” Eckstein laughed. “She’s been right there with me.”