A $2.5 million gift from a local family will help build a new geriatric center at East Carolina University.
The gift by the late Frances Joyner Monk of Farmville will fund the Frances J. and Robert T. Monk Sr. Geriatric Center at the new family medicine center planned on the ECU health sciences campus. The gift is one of the largest the university has received in recent years.
“This magnificent gift will enhance the university’s ability to provide health care to senior citizens and education to health professionals about the needs of geriatric patients,” ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said. “We are grateful to Mrs. Monk for sharing with us her vision for this center that will benefit people throughout eastern North Carolina.”
Frances Monk, who died in June at age 87, became interested in health care for older adults from first-hand experience as a caregiver for her mother and husband. She read widely in geriatric health issues and was actively involved in the planning for the geriatric center.
According to her children, Emily Monk Davidson of Chevy Chase, Md., and Robert Turnage Monk Jr. of Morehead City, she was concerned about the well-being of older adults and wanted to give back to the people of Farmville, Pitt County and eastern North Carolina.
Frances Monk also wanted to honor the memory of her husband, Robert, who died in 2001, her children said. Robert Monk was a former member of the Pitt County Memorial Hospital board of trustees.
David Whichard, vice chairman of the Medical Foundation of ECU, expressed thanks to the Monk family and said he hoped their generosity would inspire others to consider such gifts as a tribute to their own families and a way to give back.
“Their legacy will live through this contribution to their community,” Whichard said.
Dr. Kenneth Steinweg, a professor and head of the geriatric division in the Department of Family Medicine at the Brody School of Medicine, will direct the new center. He treated Robert Monk in the existing geriatric clinic, little more than a set of exam rooms.
“It was his experience in my clinic that generated an interest in fixing it,” Steinweg said at a news conference announcing the grant.
The Monk Center will have 14 patient rooms large enough for family members to attend examinations as well as family rooms – important considering topics such as end-of-life care and terminal illnesses are part of geriatric care.
“Families should be there and be comfortable when these conversations take place,” Steinweg said.
The larger, modern center will benefit the geriatric division in other ways. “This is not just money for a building. I want you to understand that,” Steinweg said. “It’s for quality of care, education and research.”
His clinic sees approximately 450 patients a month and follows about 1,500 patients. The number of geriatric patients will at least double in the next 30 years, Steinweg said.
In eastern North Carolina, older people make up as much as 15 percent of the population in some counties. Steinweg said that number will likely increase to 21 or 22 percent. He then quipped about who is or soon will be in the geriatric population.
“I’m building for my future and from the looks of some of you, yours, too,” Steinweg said, drawing laughter from the crowd of approximately 20 people at the news conference.
Technically, geriatric patients are those 65 and older, the age when Medicare kicks in. Steinweg said most of his patients are older than 75, with many in their 80s and 90s.
The new 12,000-square-foot geriatric center will have a separate entrance in the new family medicine center, which will be built at Arlington Boulevard and Heart Drive near the East Carolina Heart Institute now under construction. Groundbreaking for the geriatric center is planned for 2008.
Ballard said ECU is “working aggressively to secure funding for the new family medicine center,” projected to cost approximately $30 million.