April 1, 2005

Irwin Eskind, longtime VUMC friend, benefactor, dies at 80

Featured Image

Irwin and Annette Eskind at last year’s 10th anniversary celebration of the biomedical library that bears their names.
photo by Anne Rayner

Irwin Eskind, longtime VUMC friend, benefactor, dies at 80

Irwin B. Eskind, M.D., a retired Nashville physician and philanthropist and a strong supporter of Vanderbilt University and the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine for more than a half century, died of complications of diabetes on Monday, March 28 at his home in Nashville. He was 80.

Through Dr. Eskind's generosity, the Annette and Irwin Eskind Biomedical Library, which houses Vanderbilt University Medical Center's information services and resources, opened in 1994, and the Vanderbilt-Eskind Diabetes Clinic, an integrated diabetes care service that will allow patients with diabetes to have all their care in one geographic location, will open this summer.

Dr. Eskind, clinical professor of Medicine, Emeritus at Vanderbilt, was a 1945 graduate of Vanderbilt University and a 1948 graduate of VUSM. He served a residency in Internal Medicine at Boston City Hospital from 1948-1951, then completed his residency training at Vanderbilt in 1951. He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corp. from 1951-1953, and was a fellow in Gastroenterology at the Lahey Clinic in Boston from 1953-1954.

He remained part of the Vanderbilt community after he began practicing medicine in Nashville in 1954. Working on the staffs of Vanderbilt and Saint Thomas Hospitals, he not only supported the clinical teaching programs of Vanderbilt's students and residents, but he also devoted enormous personal effort to enhancing the resources of the University and Medical Center.

"Irwin Eskind was a great citizen of this community and of Vanderbilt University,” said Vanderbilt Chancellor Gordon Gee. “He was a tireless and gracious advocate for excellence in all that we do. Irwin's was the first voice for progress, and the last word for compassion. Together with Annette, their generosity elevated everyone and everything around them, and will be felt for generations to come. As Chancellor, I was privileged to benefit from his deep wisdom. But more importantly, Constance and I will miss a dear friend who touched our lives in a very special way."

At Vanderbilt Dr. Eskind supported the Medical and Nursing Schools, the Blair School of Music, the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies and the University as a whole. He was a longtime member of both the Vanderbilt Board of Trust, serving as a member of the Executive Budget and Hospital Committees, and the Medical Center Board. At Vanderbilt, his generosity made him a lifetime member of the Canby Robinson Society, where he served as president, the Friends of Blair, the Friends of the Library and the Nursing School's Julia Hereford Society. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Campaign for Vanderbilt.

“Generosity among medical school alumni and donors is certainly not uncommon at Vanderbilt Medical Center, but if I made a list, Irwin and Annette Eskind's name would certainly be at the top,” said Harry R. Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs at VUMC. “Irwin made Vanderbilt Medical School and this Medical Center a priority in his life. His kindness and thoughtfulness will be missed, but his fingerprints on this institution will last for years to come.”

Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., dean of VUSM, had two things in common with Dr. Eskind — a love of the medical school and a life with diabetes. They became close friends when Gabbe came to Vanderbilt in 2001.

“He looked at diabetes every day, stared it down and went on with his life. He was an inspiration to all of us,” Gabbe said. “He was also a wonderful friend. Irwin and Annette Eskind are two of the most remarkable people I have ever met. Irwin was a strong person, with a strong personality. He was a caring physician who made a huge difference in people's lives.”

Darryl K. Granner, M.D., Joe C. Davis Professor of Biomedical Science and director of the Diabetes Center, said that Eskind will be missed.

"Diabetes was a consuming personal and professional issue for Dr. Eskind, and it is a great shame that he won't be able to witness the opening of the clinic," Granner said. "The Vanderbilt-Eskind Diabetes Clinic will be a nice legacy of his interest in Vanderbilt and diabetes.”

A co-founder and former president of Hospital Affiliates International, Inc., an early competitor of HCA, Dr. Eskind was also an investor in HealthAmerica, a health maintenance organization started by a former Hospital Affiliates employee Gov. Phil Bredesen. Eskind also had a strong volunteer presence in the community, serving as president of both the Middle Tennessee Diabetes Association and the Temple Congregation Ohabai Shalom, and on the boards of the WPLN Foundation, the Nashville Jewish Federation and the Jewish Philanthropic Fund.

Dr. Eskind is survived by his wife, Annette, and sons, Dr. Steven J. Eskind and Dr. Jeffrey B. Eskind, both of Nashville.

A service was held on Thursday, March 31 at The Temple, Congregation Ohabai Shalom in Nashville. Donations in Eskind's memory may be made to the Vanderbilt-Eskind Diabetes Clinic, VU Gift Processing, Box 357727, Station B, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Nashville, Tenn., 37235.