Shaina R. Eckhouse, MD, is a Washington University bariatric surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital specializing in advanced laparoscopic techniques.
My path to medicine started pretty early. I had a desire to do something in the sciences very young just because I liked science. And as I went through high school and college, I spent some time volunteering at a hospital in Dallas, Texas where I grew up. I had these fantastic experiences taking care of kids and patients and I enjoyed supporting the patients and families in multiple different ways, whether it was sitting with them when they were crying, feeding the babies or supporting them when they were happy, I really enjoyed it.
I’ve always had an interest in the arts. I’m a photographer and a painter. In medical school I honed in on surgery really because of the combination of art and science. Getting though the patient’s different anatomy and tweaking the procedure to make sure it’s tailored to the patient is really an art form.
I started out interested in cardiothoracic surgery and vascular surgery wanting to treat heart disease and vascular disease. The part that ultimately changed my mind to treating bariatric patients and obesity was if I treated patients with obesity through bariatric surgery, I could actually prevent the heart disease or improve their heart disease. I loved the ability to take patients off their medications and give them a second chance at life because of the fact we’ve been able to improve their blood pressure, improve their heart disease, improve their lung disease, get them off their diabetic medications, save them some money, and give them the energy they need to spend time with their family. One patient particularly who had a ventricular assist device, which is a machine in their heart pumping for them because their heart was too weak to do it itself, we were able to not only get the patient to have that machine removed because their heart was doing so well, he also came off the transplant list. I find that is reflective of how beneficial bariatric surgery can be for the right patient.
The first question I ask a patient when them come in and see me is, “why do they want to have weight loss surgery?” "Why are they interested in this?" Everybody has a different answer and that can help me understand why they’re going through this process. Whether it’s just they want to be able to walk around without pain or they want to be able to chase their grandkids around the playground or the house. Then the question is, “what kind of surgery do you want?” And we take that surgery and we try to make sure it's the safest thing for them through the preoperative process where we have them see a bunch of experts that are part of our team, and do some imaging and lab work to help us make sure that's the safest choice for them. Most of the time the patients know what's best for them. And it's just making sure that we're doing the right thing and we've confirmed that they're right.
I’m originally from Chicago, I have family in the Midwest and I've always loved the Midwest and the people here. They’re just very sociable, and kind, and easy to talk to and take care of. Washington University, specifically, has always been an interest of mine. All the way back from undergraduate school to now, it's within the surgical world, it's one of the best programs in the county for training residents and future surgeons. So I have a unique opportunity at Barnes-Jewish Hospital with Washington University to teach the next generation of surgeons. Not only about general surgery and minimally invasive surgery, but what I love, bariatric surgery.