Shaina Eckhouse, MD received the 2023 Barbara Berci Memorial Award from the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES). This award recognizes her dedication to and leadership in conducting patient-oriented minimally invasive surgery within the Department of Surgery.
Leadership and Career Growth
Eckhouse is a member of SAGES, an organization dedicated to innovating, educating and collaborating to improve patient care in gastrointestinal and endoscopic surgical care. Established in 2019, the Barbara Berci Memorial Award is given in honor and memory of Barbara Berci, the SAGES executive director from 1984-1998. It recognizes the passion, dedication and vision Berci brought to the organization and how this character is embodied in today’s SAGES surgical community. The award further recognizes Berci’s commitment to resolving social injustices and developing opportunities for young SAGES members.
The award is presented to help accelerate leadership growth and career development of young surgeons nationally and within SAGES. It supports their attendance at a designated leadership course that is meant to help surgeons challenge thought processes and optimize leadership skills to effect change in the surgical world. Awardees also participate in a longitudinal mentorship program with a current SAGES leader who is a Committee Chair and/or Board Member.
Awardees are chosen on a basis of merit and leadership potential, honoring their skills as surgeons as well as their dedication to affecting meaningful change in the discipline. With an extensive list of departmental roles and recognitions, Eckhouse typifies the recipients of this prestigious award.
Eckhouse embraces this award as part a reflection of the work she’s done and currently does within the department.
“With the leadership development opportunities and mentorship from an implementation science researcher,” she explains, “I hope to utilize the skills and mentorship to create a method for other areas in the hospital to adopt techniques to prevent behavioral and communication disconnects and achieve restoration of relationships when they occur.”
This award provides support to her pursuit of continuing patient safety and improved care in weight loss.
“I hope to utilize the skills I develop from the longitudinal mentorship and leadership course to help improve communication across all team members participating in the care of patients within the hospital, from faculty to learners to all staff,” says Eckhouse.
A True Surgical Leader
Eckhouse specializes in minimally invasive surgery, weight loss, and advanced laparoscopic techniques in the treatment of morbid obesity and related disorders. Among other bariatric surgeons in the department, Eckhouse performs laparoscopic procedures through the Weight Loss and Metabolism Center.
When Eckhouse joined the department in 2016 as a minimally invasive surgeon and patient safety officer, her goal was to improve the quality of outcomes in bariatric surgery. She began formalizing the bariatric surgery quality improvement process in the Section of Minimally Invasive Surgery. Alongside J. Chris Eagon, MD, and Francesca M. Dimou, MD, MS, have led initiatives to reduce surgical site infections, readmission rates and bariatric length of stay. Recent studies with the Weight Loss and Metabolism Center found that the team’s protocol for reducing surgical site infection is effective. She has spearheaded other initiatives focusing on early ambulation after weight loss surgery.
In 2019, Eckhouse became Surgery Liaison for the Perioperative Services Leadership Team. Eckhouse leads the Peer Advocate (PA) Program, working with members of each division and section to enhance and improve OR culture and develop a system to restore relationships between healthcare workers. This system creates more supportive channels for members of the OR team to communicate their concerns to a PA in a supportive and non-confrontational environment.
As of 2022, Eckhouse is also part of a team with Michelle A. Cusumano, NP, dedicated to programs that encourage preoperative weight loss for patients who will undergo other surgeries, including hernia repairs using anti-obesity medications. The medical weight management program assesses and helps patients reach weight goals prior to an operation, benefiting a broader demographic of patients with more accessible weight management guidance.
Eckhouse has been continuously recognized for her leadership in the department. She was nominated as an outstanding mentor by the 2022 cohort of general surgery residents, receiving the 2022 Jeffrey F. Moley Mentorship Award. Additionally, she leads a peer advocate group for health care workers and initiatives to develop a culture of patient safety in surgery. She continues to partner with residents to publish research, including a recent chapter in the SAGES Manual of Quality, Outcomes and Patient Safety.
Eckhouse elaborates on her involvement in the department and the mutual positive affect her roles in leadership have had. “I am fortunate to work with a variety of team members on a number of QI initiatives, and I truly believe they should be recognized more for their hard work.”
“Dr. Francesca Dimou for implementing robotic bariatric surgery and now a robotic bariatric surgery educational curriculum. Dr. Baddr Shakhsheer for standing up pediatric bariatric surgery at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. All the residents that have implemented and published QI initiatives: Bradley Kushner, Britta Han, Eileen Smith, Sidney Beache, Robert MacGregor and many more. My administrative and clinical team that help patients with obesity navigate treatment options, both medical and surgical. They all deserve recognition.”