Matthew C. Ercolani, MD
RTR Urology, Venice
VENICE - When Matthew Ercolani was a boy he wanted to be an archaeologist. “I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark and was hooked,” he said. Fortunately for his patients, Ercolani sifted through his career options and decided to dig into medicine.
Ercolani, a surgeon with RTR Urology in Venice and also director of robotic surgery at Venice Regional Medical Center, was exposed to medicine early on. The native New Yorker’s father is Louis Ercolani, MD, a nephrologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Although he admits his father “had a big effect” and “was inspirational” on his decision to become a physician, the elder Ercolani’s direct influence was more encouragement than expectation. “He took me to the hospital with him from a very young age,” Ercolani said.
Later, “He knew our temperaments were different, but he did not try to change that.” It is ironic that his father is “more of a bench researcher and doesn’t enjoy interacting with patients as much,” Ercolani said. “I am just the opposite. I spend a lot of time with patients getting to know them and their families. ... I’ve always liked that aspect of medicine.”
Ercolani’s father and mother, a social worker, divorced when he was a toddler, but both remarried and he has relished the role of being big brother to his six half-siblings. “I am very close to all of them,” he said.
Ercolani said he knew even before he enrolled at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor that he would one day be a physician. “I don’t think there is a higher calling when it comes to helping people,” he said. “... and there nothing to confuse the issue. It’s just you and the patient.”
After earning his undergraduate degree in biological sciences at Michigan, Ercolani planned to attend medical school back in New York. But he hit a bump in the road back to his hometown. “I had a 3.2 GPA as an undergraduate. I applied for medical school soon after graduating and was not accepted,” he said. Ercolani called that let-down “incredibly humbling.” He enrolled at New York University, where he earned a master’s degree in biological science attending school at night for two years while working as a research assistant and project coordinator at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He finished with a 3.76 GPA and was accepted to medical school at SUNY-Downstate College of Medicine. He continued to work at Sloan-Kettering while attending SUNY. “Many good things followed,” Ercolani said, and he learned an important life lesson: “You have to fight for what you want.”
Ercolani’s experience at Sloan-Kettering is what drew him to urology. “I spent time working with some of the best urologists in the world. Time in the operating room with them was a big influence. Once I got to medical school, I returned to (Sloan-Kettering) for rotations in urology. The combination of state-of-the-art technology, fascinating surgery and close relationships with patients in the office was perfect for me,” he said.
Four years of residencies in general surgery and urology followed at the University of Medicine and Dentistry-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J.
Accompanying Ercolani in his medical training was Jennifer Gerardi, also a New Yorker whom he met at Ann Arbor. The couple have been married 9 years.
After his residency, Ercolani targeted Florida to practice. “We both love the water and warm weather,” he said. But he also “knew in the course of my raining the areas I wanted to focus on, robotic surgery BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). This area is very fertile ground for that because the average age is between 60 and 70 years old and a lot of men that age have urinary problems. ... It seemed like a natural fit.”
A job recruiter put him in touch with RTR’s Thomas Ruane, MD and Ercolani was told he should expect to hear from Ruane in a couple of days. “Well, 10 days went by and I never got a call, so I figured it wasn’t going to work out. Finally, Dr. Ruane called and explained that the wind had been very good for kiteboarding and that he had been on the water all week and had forgotten to call. Once I heard that there was time to do that, I was sold,” Ercolani laughed.
But almost immediately after moving to Florida, Ercolani embarked on a 6-month fellowship to “the best place in the world to train” in robotic and laparoscopic surgery, the Department of Urology at the Institut Mutualiste Montsouris in Paris.
He returned about a year ago to RTR, where he “filled a huge void that existed in this area,” according to RTR practice manager Alexis Blakley. Robert Ross, MD, and founder of RTR, which is a division of 21st Century Oncology, stopped seeing patients and basically turned his office practice over to Dr. Ercolani, said Blakley. Ross now works as Ercolani’s robotic assistant, she explained.
Blakley said Ercolani was instrumental in organizing other physicians to become robotic surgeons, which resulted in Venice Regional Medical Center investing in the million-dollar-plus equipment. The hospital now has two da Vinci Surgical Systems “running full tilt,” she said.
Ercolani had high praise for the administration and staff at Venice Regional. “They have all of the best in terms of technology and ideas and concepts for taking care of patients,” he said. “They have made every possible effort to tie me into the community, including placing me on the board of directors of the American Cancer Society. It has been a great way to get out and meet people. ... I’m very happy and I hope to be here for a long time,” he said.
He is in his office at RTR three days a week and sees about 20 patients a day, fewer than his partners, he said, because “I’m a firm believer that the more time you spend with a patient, the more time you have to figure out and solve their problems better. That has translated to me doing more surgeries.” Ercolani said he usually operates at Venice Regional one day week and one day at the Venice HealthPark outpatient surgery center. A typical day, he said, starts about 6 a.m. and ends about 8 p.m.
When he’s not working, Ercolani and wife Jennifer, a professional photographer, enjoy swimming, boating, diving, fishing or water skiing. They also share a love of cooking and good wines, he said.
Another passion is travel, he said. “We aspire to visit every continent together. So far, we have visited six of the seven. Antarctica is waiting.”