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Dr. Jeffrey L. Ecker attended Harvard Medical School and following graduation he started internship in the BWH/MGH Integrated Residency Training Program in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Upon graduating from residency in 1992, he practiced as a general ob/gyn in San Diego staffing a large network of community health centers and, in addition to hospital work, helping to run a free standing birth center. In 1994 he began fellowship training in maternal-fetal medicine and obstetrical ultrasound at the University of California in San Francisco before returning to MGH in 1997.
Dr. Ecker recently became the Chief of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Professor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ecker has filled many leadership roles in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; including his current service as Chair of the Committee on Obstetric Practice. Dr. Ecker is a Founding Member of the Massachusetts Perinatal Quality Collaborative and serves on the Perinatal Advisory Committee for Leapfrog, a national quality measurement organization.
As a medical student I experienced a amazing mix of clinical challenges during my obstetrics and gynecology experience. I thought there were a great number of important and unanswered clinical and scientific questions. There were also a number of policy/political/ethical issues attached to the field that I found intriguing. The mix of all of those factors made the field of obstetrics and gynecology incredibly appealing.
It was a combination of two factors. First it was an exciting/dynamic program filled with impressive teachers and a great group of residents that I hoped to have as colleagues. The second factor was that I was already located in Boston and wanted to stay in the area. These two factors made the BWH/MGH residency an easy choice to make.
The thing I can’t emphasize enough both as a resident in the program and looking at our residents now, is the great group of colleagues that exists. Learning from your colleagues and their experiences is a great lesson from residency. Additionally, training also instilled a sense of being able to take care of a wide range of problems (medical/social/policy) and also a sense of how one goes about approaching a condition/situation that is new. Where do you seek the learning? Where do you look in the literature?
I couldn’t imagine myself in this position when I finished residency. It is as far away as I could imagine. I can’t believe I’ve become the old guy that fusses with policy, finance and planning. I can’t imagine many would think of that when they are in residency. I’ve always liked challenges and learning and in a sense this position is an evolution of that aspect.
There are so many wonderful memories of time with my colleagues both inside and outside of work. Some include sharing meals with co-residents, beers at Doyle’s in Jamaica Plain and just spending time together. It was a wonderful and very supportive group. We’d make each other laugh which is terrifically important.
The intensity of the friendships – it’s a great time. Also, as a resident, in many ways it was a time when you could focus on what you love about ob/gyn – taking care of patient after patient, great challenges, high volume, learning every day and becoming better.
A few from my class of 1992 are still working in the Partners system: Dr. Jim Greenberg at Faulkner Hospital, Dr. Mari-Kim Bunnell at New England OB Gyn Associates and Dr. Jan Shifren at Massachusetts General Hospital. It is wonderful to continue to working with them in academic medicine. They were great friends and colleagues during training and they remain so today.
Three things: be kind, be curious and have fun. These will carry you a long way. When you are starting as an intern many things are technically daunting: how can I do this surgery; how can I manage this procedure; how can I acquire this technique. Those things come with time and practice. The residency provides the time and practice for you to get the technical things right. What’s really challenging is the art of medicine and understanding what treatments and therapies are best for which patients. Eventually it is those things that people focus on and it continues for me today.
The best part is getting to help people to do their best; helping people pursue their interests and passions. Specifically for me, a chance to help the residents and trainees of all walks is very rewarding. It’s a group where the simple thing can make the biggest difference. For example, I still do things in a certain way because of the first one or two people who trained me on those techniques. Paying it forward with training the next generation is extremely rewarding.