Gilchrist Joins ECU as Chair of Family Medicine
By Jeannine Manning Hutson
A family physician with 25 years of experience in academic medicine has been named the chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.
Dr. Valerie Gilchrist comes to ECU from Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, where she was chair of the Department of Family Medicine for almost eight years and where she was on faculty for 24 years. She is the third chair for the ECU department. She follows founding chair Dr. James G. Jones and Dr. Dean Patton, each of whom served for more than 10 years. Patton is now assistant dean for graduate medical education.
Gilchrist was impressed during her interviews at the medical school with the faculty members’ commitment to the institution and to the region. “The Brody School of Medicine, unlike many other medical schools, continues to live its mission of primary care, diversity and service to eastern North Carolina. I wanted to be a part of that,” she said.
According to Dr. Cynda Johnson, dean of the Brody School of Medicine, Gilchrist is an excellent addition to the faculty. “Dr. Gilchrist grasped the importance of the mission of the school quicker than any of our other family medicine chair candidates. She realized that whereas other schools may pay lip-service to the mission of their school, at Brody, we live the mission,” said Johnson.
Gilchrist said she first plans on focusing on budget issues and faculty growth and development, including research options for faculty.
“I think there is much opportunity for primary care research but funding is difficult. We need primary care, clinical, and basic science research to confront the significant health care problems of our country,” she said.
Gilchrist explained that the primary care physicians’ offices are their research labs. “Family medicine should focus on translating research into practice. I hope to develop a practice-based research network to work with practitioners across eastern North Carolina,” she said.
While at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, Gilchrist developed and directed one of the first practice-based research network in the country. These networks study primary health care problems at the practice level in collaboration with patients and health care providers.
Gilchrist was drawn to family medicine during medical school because of its impact on the patient over a lifetime. “Family medicine is the best way to take care of most of the problems in most people most of the time,” she said.
A native of Canada, Gilchrist earned her undergraduate degree in physical therapy and then decided to pursue a medical degree, which she earned in 1977 from the University of Toronto.
Her husband, Bill, is a professor of psychology at the College of Wooster in Ohio. He and their youngest child, Andrew, 12, will be moving to Greenville in the spring after completion of the school year. Her husband is scheduled for a sabbatical year in 2006 and then he’ll commute to complete the next academic year.
Their other children are Morgaine, who is a senior at Oberlin College, and Douglas, who is a freshman at Swarthmore College.
Highlights of her career thus far include being one the first two master teachers at NEOUCOM, being named a memorable teacher of excellence in Ohio Magazine in 2004 and receiving an honorary degree at Pecs University in Hungary in recognition for helping develop its Department of Family Medicine. She serves on the board of directors of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine and the North American Primary Care Research Group. She is a representative member of the Council of Academic Societies for the American Association of Medical Colleges, reviews for numerous professional journals and has edited two books.