Dr. Bernard “Bernie” Abraham Eskin, whose medical career as an OB-GYN included teaching and research into women’s health, died Dec. 29. He was 92.
“He felt very strongly that women had the right to control their bodies and have appropriate health care,” daughter Catherine Eskin said.
A just married Eskin arrived in Philadelphia in 1955 from Albany Medical College, interning at Einstein Medical Center Northern Division, where he was the first man to get a residency in OB/GYN at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.
“He felt like he should learn women’s health from women,” Catherine Eskin said.
He remained with the institution and its successors for 63 years — teaching as a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Women’s Med, Medical College of Pennsylvania (renamed after it admitted men in 1970), Hahnemann Medical School (after a 1993 merger) and Drexel University College of Medicine (after a 2003 merger).
Throughout his career, he was an active researcher, studying the breast and breast cancer, and served as lead researcher on studies that advanced research and clinical applications of iodine and related treatments.
Later research focused on the way medical practitioners treated aging in women. He wrote the first textbook, which is still widely used, on menopause and discovered what he called “geri-pause” — a shift in hormones that occurs after menopause is completed.
Catherine Eskin said his father’s research interests dovetailed with the physical experiences of his wife Lynn over the years.
Eskin was a member of the Philadelphia County Medical Society and Pennsylvania Medical Society for 64 years, as well as a member of the PCMS board of directors and a delegate to the PMS House of Delegates, according to Eileen Ryan, the PCMS director, membership and programming.
He received the PCMS Cristol Award in 1999, “which is given to a physician member for their dedication and exceptional contribution to the Society, furthering and enhancing the educational, scientific and charitable goals, purposes and functions of organized medicine,” Ryan wrote.
Eskin began a private practice in 1959, delivering babies in multiple hospitals for more than 40 years. He was a surgeon and an early adopter of laser tools.
He also worked with Planned Parenthood in North Philadelphia, made home visits through the late 1970s and participated in bridal fairs, where he counseled couples and handed out “Love Carefully” buttons.
“The thing I most admired about my dad was his willingness to go against what the rest of the world was thinking,” Catherine Eskin said. “He often had conflicts with some groups because of his [belief in a] right to choose.”
“Your dad was a hero and true gentlemen that will be missed by so many including myself … our condolences to your family and mom,” PCMS Executive Director Mark C. Austerberry wrote in an email to Catherine Eskin. “We will certainly recognize and celebrate the many achievements he did for not only physicians but organized medicine and the human race! He always thought and fought for the underdog!”
Aside from his medical interests, Eskin nurtured a lifelong passion for classical music and jazz.
“He took me to a bar when I was 7 to hear some jazz music when his buddies were in town,” Catherine Eskin said. “My dad was a pretty cool guy.”
Eskin grew up in Atlantic City, where he was first chair in violin and viola in the All-Star Orchestra. He also played the clarinet and saxophone from an early age, landing his first paying gig at 11 or 12. He played about 40 shows with jazz bandleader Stan Kenton in the summer of 1942.
A musical highlight occurred two years later when, while a 16-year-old student at Princeton University — he graduated high school at 15 — he played viola in a quartet with Albert Einstein.
“It was probably one of the most thrilling moments of his life,” Catherine Eskin said.
During a World War II Navy stint, Eskin played in an officer’s club band and formed a band in Albany to support himself while in medical school. After the war, he completed his undergraduate studies at Rutgers University.
In the Philadelphia area, he joined a doctors’ orchestra, spending 30 years there and serving as its president. He later joined the Main Line Symphony Orchestra and the Lower Merion Symphony.
Bernie and Lynn Eskin were members of Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley and frequent travelers.
One of their highlights was meeting Princess Grace of Monaco. Grace Kelly was born in East Falls and her family was involved with Women’s Medical College. Catherine Eskin believes her father met Kelly at some point through the hospital and, before a European vacation in the mid-1960s, he wrote her asking if they could visit. She agreed, inviting them for tea.
Eskin is survived by his wife, Lynn; three children, Gregg Eskin (Esther Cohen), JoAnne Sutkin (Steve) and Catherine Eskin (Michael Barickman); and seven grandchildren.