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Theresa Blount of Vidant Medical Center and Dr. Greg Kearney of ECU public health visit 9-year-old Kameron Hudson at his home in Farmville. Kameron has asthma and his ongoing treatment is supported, in part, by Brody Brothers research funds. (Photo by Cliff Hollis) 


Public Health earns support for pediatric asthma research

Sept. 28, 2016

By Kathryn Kennedy
University Communication

A recurring, private funding source for research at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine is paying dividends for the university by allowing professors to explore new areas in their fields and attract significant federal and industry grants.

Established in 2005, “Brody Brothers” research funding has provided more than $1.1 million over time to support work related to diseases that most impact the lives of North Carolinians in the eastern part of the state. It’s one of several ways the Brody family of eastern North Carolina continues to help the medical school achieve its mission of improving the health status of the region’s residents.

“The availability of these funds affords ECU doctors and researchers an opportunity to further study innovative ideas and launch new research,” said Hyman Brody, who reviews the proposals with cousin David Brody and a team of researchers from the medical school.

“There is a lot of quality research going on at the school,” remarked David Brody. “There have been many important contributions to the science and improvement of health generated by our faculty.”

David and Hyman Brody stand outside the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. The Brody family was among the earliest supporters of medical education at East Carolina. (Photo by Patrick Fay)

The Brody Brothers Stewardship Committee approved approximately $331,600 for the 2015-16 academic year to be divided among 11 grant proposals. Projects to earn funding this cycle included research related to cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression.

The awards range from $20,000 to $45,000. But in an increasingly competitive funding environment, so-called “seed grants” have become essential to attracting larger awards from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation.

“With many of the major funding mechanisms out there, you get two tries – a submission and a resubmission,” said Dr. Bob Lust, chair of physiology at Brody and a member of the proposal review team. “There’s more pressure than ever before to be as competitive as possible on the first attempt.”

Lust said the Brody Brothers grants enable researchers to gather preliminary data to strengthen their proposals, or to explore a new idea.

The Brody family’s support is making a world of difference for 9-year-old Kameron Hudson of Farmville.

Kameron has asthma – the number 1 reason for school absenteeism in the United States. One in 10 American children suffers from asthma, and eastern North Carolina has higher hospitalization rates for asthma patients compared to the rest of the state. That’s why faculty such as Dr. Greg Kearney of ECU’s Department of Public Health are partnering with Vidant Medical Center’s Pediatric Asthma Program to conduct community-based interventions that provide in-home visits and connect families to resources.

“Before we got in this program, Kameron was always having problems breathing,” recalled Jennifer Goss, Kameron’s mother. “He had three or four asthma
attacks every week. Some days he was using his rescue inhaler every four hours.”

Kameron’s course of treatment involves wearing a portable air sampling device at home and at school for three days. The filter inside can later be examined to detect possible triggers in his environment such as metals, pesticides, tobacco smoke or mold.

Kearney said this research is unique because similar studies haven’t occurred in rural environments. “This Brody grant enables us to back up and look at biomarkers and determine what’s contributing to these kids’ asthma,” said Kearney. “It helps us ramp up education on how to take their medications, how to identify asthma triggers and how to self-manage their asthma. And it allows us to provide environmental supplies like mattress encasements, HEPA vacuums and non-toxic cleaning supplies ... so we can reduce the asthma triggers in their homes.”

“Now he’s breathing so much better and his skin is clearer,” Goss said. “He loves going to school.”

While the Brody family is pleased with the impact of their endowment, they also know much more can be done. “If we want to continue to attract these top doctors and researchers, we need to be competitive with funding for this work, and open our pocketbooks and give back,” said Hyman Brody. “The current dollars from this fund are great, but every time we do the grant review many fabulous proposals do not receive funding as there is only so much to go around.”

Anyone interested in supporting research at the Brody School of Medicine should contact Kathy Brown at 252-744-6265 or