Faculty member recognized for lifetime achievement

Oct. 26, 2015

By Amy Adams Ellis
ECU News Services

An East Carolina University faculty member has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry.

Dr. James G. Peden Jr., a Brody School of Medicine professor of internal medicine and psychiatric medicine – and associate dean for admissions – was presented the award at the society’s annual meeting in Chicago in early October.
Dr. James G. Peden Jr.

In return, Peden honored those in attendance by sharing his personal medical-psychiatric experience as an oncology patient. In 2001, he was diagnosed with a myxoid liposarcoma – a rare kind of cancer that grows in connective tissue, most often in the limbs – in his right lower leg.

He underwent multiple surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy before experiencing a recurrence that led to an above-the-knee amputation in 2004.

In his address, Peden recounted the different ways his doctors relayed “bad news,” the anxiety he experienced during periods of uncertainty, how he adjusted to “a new and different reality,” and how he handled others’ reactions to his illness and disability. He also discussed the benefits of using humor to cope with the side effects of treatment, lingering post-op symptoms and a new disability.

Dr. Michael Lang, assistant professor and director of Brody’s Medicine/Psychiatry Residency Program and a former student of Peden’s, introduced Peden at the event, lauding his uncanny ability to communicate effectively with a wide range of patients, his tireless determination and his trademark humor.

“I have heard many of my colleagues say, ‘even if he couldn't fix you, Jim could make you feel better about being sick,’" Lang said.

Lang noted, however, that the mentoring and encouragement Peden has provided over the years to medical students and residents – or his “disciples,” as Lang called them –– is his greatest achievement.

“I could mention all of his publications, lectures, awards and other accomplishments, but ultimately what truly makes the mark is the impact he has had on his students,” Lang said.

In the late 1980s, Peden developed ECU’s combined Internal Medicine/Psychiatry Residency Program to enable physicians to become board-eligible in both specialties after five years of post-graduate training, and he served as the program director for more than 25 years.

Peden is a founding member and past president of the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry, which was established in 1991. He’s also a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

Recently retired from an active medical/psychiatric clinical practice, Peden oversees Brody’s Admissions Committee, charged with selecting 80 students annually from a typical applicant pool of more than 900.

Peden completed his medical education in 1979 at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and was the first graduate of the Medicine/Psychiatry Residency Program at West Virginia University-Charleston. He joined ECU’s medical faculty right after completing his residency training in 1984.

Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean of the Brody School of Medicine, said Peden’s colleagues join him in celebrating this recognition. “Locally, we have long benefitted from his wisdom, based on his profound appreciation for life, and balanced by his disarming self-deprecating humor,” Cunningham said.