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Meet Mary Ann!

September 3rd, 2019

Mary Ann Eck, PA-C
Physician Assistant 

Mary Ann Eck, PA-C, is a physician assistant who earned her degree from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia in 2004. She began her career working in primary care and transitioned to the field of vascular surgery in 2007. When she joined USA in 2017, she initially worked in the clinic, took call, rounded at the hospital, and scheduled surgical procedures. In 2017, she began working the USA Vein Center where she evaluates patients, obtains appropriate imaging studies and schedules follow up with the surgeons for endovascular treatment of incompetent veins. She also assesses patients after their procedures to monitor their recovery.  

“I’m generally the first person a patient sees when they come to USA for problems with their veins. First, I do a history and physical, listen to symptoms, look at their legs and determine what vein study is appropriate for their situation,” says Mary Ann. “Many times, we do a venous reflux study, which measures the increased pressure in the veins from valve dysfunction – that leads to varicose veins, swollen legs, skin break down, and even infection or wounds.” 

The time spent with Mary Ann serves as a baseline that the surgeons use when determining the proper treatment. It’s during this time she starts the patients wearing compression socks to prepare them for a procedure if necessary. 

“For people with incompetent veins or superficial veins in the legs, they may need a radiofrequency ablation, a procedure that uses radiofrequency to heat the vein from inside to seal it shut and take the vein out of circulation,” says Mary Ann. “This forces the blood to flow away from the incompetent vein toward healthier veins which improves a patient’s overall blood flow.  

“The way we treat our circulatory system directly affects our overall health, and what we do every day affects how well the system works. First, the arterial supply must be intact to provide freshly oxygenated blood to the tissues. Then the venous return from the extremities must be efficient. If there’s failure in either the arterial supply or the venous return, the tissues of the extremities suffer. When the veins fail, blood flow from the tissues slows; increased venous pressure makes the veins stretch (varicose veins), causes the soft tissues to retain fluid (swelling), the legs ache, the skin stretches, itches, darkens, and may even ulcerate,” says Mary Ann. “Venous disease is progressive, but if we can slow that progression with procedures that redirect flow from inefficient veins to competent veins, the health of the tissues improve, and the person feels better. And helping patients feel better every day is why we are here.”

When asked about why she chose to become a physician assistant and work in the field of vascular health, she’s quick to point out how important the circulatory system is to the health of every person – every task, chemical reaction, and electrical circuit in our bodies depend on excellent circulation for optimal performance. 

“I love being a PA because I get to educate people on their conditions and help them understand and manage their own health better,” says Mary Ann. “In the process, I share a bit of my life, passion, and wisdom with them, and they share theirs with me. There is no better job on earth.” 

The Vein Center at University Surgical Associates specializes in the treatment of vein disease including varicose veins, spider veins, pelvic vein congestion, and venous stasis disease. All treatments are done in a pleasant and convenient outpatient setting, plus we offer conscious sedation for maximum comfort during most vein procedures. Take a free online vein assessment or call (423) 267-0466 to schedule an appointment for an evaluation. 

No one expects to be in a traumatic accident, yet they’re more common than you might imagine. According to the National Trauma Institute, trauma is the number one cause of death for people age one to 46, even ahead of heart disease and cancer. Care for patients with traumatic injuries, acute surgical emergencies, shock, sepsis, respiratory failure and advanced multi-organ failure require special training and expertise. 

“Surgical Critical Care (SCC) is a specialty that focuses on caring for patients with acute or potentially life-threatening surgical conditions and understanding the relationship between surgical procedures and critical surgical illness,” says Robert Maxwell, M.D., surgical critical care specialist at University Surgical Associates. “The surgical critical care fellowship offered through the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga (UTCOM-C), Department of Surgery, offers clinical training that’s focused on cutting-edge, evidence-based experiences in trauma, emergency general surgery and surgical critical care.” 


The SCC fellowship was the first fellowship initiated at UTCOM-C and is one of three such programs offered at the state’s major academic teaching centers and safety net hospitals. The faculty for the training program are all double boarded in SCC and general surgery. They manage patients with various surgical conditions that require recovery in an ICU with various types of life support techniques.  

“Critical care specialists are not only surgeons – they’re also more knowledgeable about the whole patient condition. The surgical care at a Level 1 trauma center like Erlanger, combined with the advanced training of surgical critical care specialists, means you’ll receive the most up-to-date and advanced care available – exactly what you need when you or a family member is critically ill or facing a life-threatening condition,” says Benjamin Dart, M.D., surgical critical care specialist at USA.  

In addition to their advanced training in the diagnosis and management of complex problems in critically ill patients, USA’s surgical critical care specialists conduct research in certain areas such as infection prevention and management of different types of traumatic injuries such as mandibular fractures, pancreatic injuries and vascular trauma.  

What does this mean for you? No matter how carefully you plan, no one knows when an emergency will happen. But if the unexpected occurs, you can have confidence that you’ll receive the very best care available today – the kind of care that you’ve come to expect from University Surgical Associates. 

“As teachers we must stay current on the latest practices, and our academic responsibilities require our team to attend major medical conferences every year to learn about the new technology for critically ill patients. We are dedicated to staying at the top of our field,” says Dr. Maxwell. “We are the only hospital within a 100-mile radius that offers the level of care available at Erlanger Medical Center. Whether it’s trauma, acute care surgery or highly skilled post-surgical care, we are trained and ready to address the most difficult cases in our region.” 


USA’s surgical critical care capabilities are unmatched in this region, providing care for the most complex trauma and surgical cases. No matter if it’s a complicated operation or highly advanced care after surgery – our critical care specialists use their education, training and expertise to save lives. 

Congratulations Dr. Jean!

August 12th, 2019

University Surgical Associates is proud to announce that Robert Jean, MD, USA general surgeon, has completed his 200th minimally invasive robotic surgery at CHI Memorial - Hixson! Dr. Jean celebrated the milestone along with the OR staff who he routinely works with on robotic surgeries.

Minimally invasive robotic surgery allows surgeons to complete intricate procedures with precision often leading to shorter hospital stays, fewer complications, minimal scarring and a faster return to normal, daily activities. Robotic surgery is just one of the options USA surgeons have in deciding the very best course of treatment for each person.

University Surgical Associates provides general surgical care in the Chattanooga region for patients with hernias and breast disease, as well as a wide range of surgical services relating to the abdomen, including surgery of the gallbladder, stomach and colon.  

USA General Surgery Physician Staff 
Coleman Arnold, MD, FACS
Donald Barker, MD, FACS
R. Phillip Burns, MD, FACS
W. Todd Cockerham, MD, FACS 
Benjamin Dart IV, MD, FACS
Jacob Dowden, MD, FACS
W. Heath Giles, MD, FACS
John Huggins, MD, FACS
Darren Hunt, MD, FACS
Robert Jean, MD, FACS 
Benjamin Kellogg, MD, FACS
Robert Maxwell, MD, FACS
Vicente Mejia, MD, FACS
S. Michael Roe, MD, FACS
Philip Smith, MD, FACS
Craig Swafford, MD, FACS 

Learn more about the services available at University Surgical Associates by visiting www.universitysurgical.com. To schedule an appointment with one of USA’s general surgeons, call (423) 267-0466.