Edward A. Eckenhoff '66
Eckenhoff receives presidential appointment and major honor from hospital association
A presidential appointment and a top honor from the American Hospital Association came almost on top of one another this spring for Edward A. Eckenhoff ’66, president, CEO, and founder of the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C.
In March, President Bush named Eckenhoff to the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, a nine-member group charged with investigating the treatment of wounded service members in the wake of a public scandal over outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The commission is chaired by former senator Robert J. Dole and former health and human services secretary Donna E. Shalala.
The investigation was sparked by a Washington Post series documenting substandard living conditions for wounded outpatient soldiers at Walter Reed and bureaucratic ineptitude at dealing with their problems.
Eckenhoff, long recognized as a national innovator in rehabilitation medicine, said the commission is working as much as two days a week and will present the president its formal report by the end of July. The investigation encompasses the entire military healthcare system, from the care provided wounded service members in the field to stabilization of their condition in a U.S. hospital in Germany, their care at the more than 200 Department of Defense and Veteran’s Administration hospitals, and the long-term therapy they receive when they return home.
“Our recommendations will hopefully bring about a much better, more seamless healthcare system for our wounded service members,” said Eckenhoff. “We want all the 200-plus hospitals to talk with each other to bring about efficiencies and transparency.”
Eckenhoff said he has received e-mails from service members and their families from all over the country. “A lot of the e-mails relate stories of the care they have received, which they want to have on the record,” he said. “Serving on this commission has been a very rewarding experience. If we can do something for all these wounded Americans coming home, I’m going to find it a lot easier to sleep at night.”
In May, Eckenhoff received the Award of Honor from the American Hospital Association in recognition of his outstanding contributions to improving the health status of communities and the nation.
Eckenhoff founded the National Rehabilitation Hospital in 1986 and has overseen its growth from a single hospital to a medical rehabilitation network that operates in 40 locations, providing nearly 400,000 ambulatory visits annually and more than 2,200 inpatient admissions. The organization enjoys a reputation for innovation and excellence in patient care, research, teaching, and technology development and is ranked among the best and largest of its type in the nation.
Eckenhoff suffered a traumatic lower spinal cord injury while a student at Transylvania that left his legs paralyzed, and it was his own rehabilitation experience that helped him decide on his life’s calling in medicine.
Rich Umbdenstock, president of the AHA, referenced Eckenhoff’s personal courage in presenting him with the award at the association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.: “As a patient, Ed recognized the need for specialized rehabilitative care and he answered that call through the National Rehabilitation Hospital. As an administrator, he’s developed a world-class care network to help patients with a wide range of conditions return to normal activities of daily living.”