By Tony Kukulich
It doesn’t seem quite appropriate to say that Schilling Nechtman was fated to become a doctor. Fate implies an aspect of randomness. It may be more accurate to say he was destined to become a doctor, or that it was a foregone conclusion.
“I was probably in middle school when I realized I wanted to be a doctor,” Nechtman said. “I realized I had a knack for biology and mathematics. I don’t think it was a single revelation. Over time it just sort of made sense. But I was also a rough-and-tumble kid and I really liked doing hands-on things.”
Nechtman, a board-eligible general surgeon who joined Beaufort Memorial Surgical Services last summer, comes from a family with a deep history in the medical field. Including his mother, father and brother, Nechtman’s family tree is sprinkled liberally with doctors and surgeons going back at least three generations. The middle child of three siblings, his older brother is a neurosurgeon while his younger sister is an accountant.
“My parents say she’s the smart one,” he said.
Nechtman’s parents separated when he and his siblings were young. Weekends with his father often meant tagging along to the hospital where his future began to take shape.
“We would go with him to the ER on weekends, or do rounds with his patients,” Nechtman said. “He’d just take us with him.”
Growing up among his tight-knit extended family in Birmingham, Alabama, Nechtman was, unsurprisingly, a good student with a penchant for the sciences, though his young life wasn’t solely oriented around academics. Like many kids growing up in the country, he spent time hunting, fishing, swimming and four wheeling. With the strong support of their father, both Nechtman boys became Eagle Scouts while in high school.
The family’s long dedication to Crimson Tide football made accepting a full scholarship to the University of Alabama an easy decision. Medical school at the University of South Alabama in Mobile followed.
“I had a good time in Mobile, being near the coast,” he said. “Mobile is a lot like the Lowcountry. There’s a lot of overlap and similarities.”
While there, Nechtman took part in mission trips to Honduras and Rwanda sponsored by the Christian Medical Ministry of South Alabama, and he also helped manage a student-run free clinic in Mobile.
His residency took him to the University of Tennessee Knoxville, where met and started dating a perioperative nurse named Samantha. The couple got engaged in December 2019 and were married the following February. The newlyweds honeymooned in Northern California, hiking in Yosemite, sipping wine in the Napa Valley and seeing the sights of the City by the Bay.
“Samantha had me hiking 55 miles in three days. We summited Half Dome. The bulk of my training mostly consisted of taking the stairs at work,” he recalled with a laugh.
The last year has been a whirlwind of milestones that started with the birth of the couple’s first child, Everett. Nechtman called Everett’s birth last February the most exciting and scary thing that he and his wife have been through.
“He’s a great dad,” Samantha reported. “He absolutely loves Everett. He comes home and instantly plays with him.”
This past June, Nechtman graduated from his residency program, a change that meant not quite so many hours in the office. It was a change that Samantha welcomed.
“We got over residency, so now it feels like it’s smooth sailing,” she said. “He still works a lot, but it is still so much better than residency.”
The couple visited Beaufort in September 2021, and though it was “hot as blazes,” they quickly fell for the area and said the decision to move here was an easy one. The trio moved into their Beaufort home in June, (when it was even hotter than it was during their fall visit).
Besides the home’s human inhabitants, they share their space with a veritable menagerie including two dogs, two cats, three snakes and a gecko.
“We both wanted a snake growing up, but our parents would never let us,” Nechtman explains when asked about the snakes. “So, when we moved in together, as a Christmas present, I surprised her with a trip to go pick out a ball python from a local breeder.” Since then, they rescued another malnourished ball snake from a pet store and found Samantha’s “dream snake” (a Columbia red-tailed boa) while visiting Repticon, a reptile expo, in Knoxville.
“The hobby accelerated,” he admits. “However, I’m content with the current number.”
Settling into a new practice in a new home with a new baby might rattle some, but Nechtman appears to have taken it all in stride.
“It’s been great being part of a true, bread-and-butter surgery practice,” he said. “I see a variety of things every day. So far, it’s been what I was hoping for.”
As for their adopted hometown? They’re delighted.
“We like the small-town feel,” said Nechtman. “We love being here in the Lowcountry.”