Edward Eckenhoff, who led two prominent rehabilitation hospitals, died earlier this month after a battle with cancer. He was 74.
In 1963, when he was just 20 years old, Eckenhoff was critically injured in an auto accident. His college roommate, who was driving, was killed and Eckenhoff's injuries left him a paraplegic. But the tragedy would lead him to a long career helping others living with disabilities.
In 1974, not long after earning a master's in healthcare administration, Eckenhoff joined the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, recently rebranded as the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. He served at the hospital until 1982, holding the title of vice president of administration.
He relocated to the Washington, D.C., area to pursue his dream of establishing a free-standing rehab hospital. In 1986, the National Rehabilitation Hospital opened for business, with Eckenhoff as founding president and CEO. During his long tenure at the organization, now part of MedStar Health, he led expansion from a single hospital to a rehabilitation network with more than 40 locations. It provides inpatient and outpatient care, including unique services such as day treatment programs for patients with conditions such as spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injury.
He retired from NRH in 2009 but continued to serve on the organization's board of directors for several years.
Eckenhoff received many industry awards and in 2007 was appointed by President George W. Bush to the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, following reports of poor-quality care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other veterans-care facilities around the country.